14 May 2018

Nigeria: Why Nigeria Needs Nuclear Power Plant - Russia's Rosatom Chief

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Nuclear power station.

A Vice President of Russia's nuclear power giant, Rosatom, has made a case for the benefits of nuclear-powered electricity for Nigerians saying it would provide a cheaper and stable source of electricity pricing - in the long run - borne out of lower operating costs.

Viktor Polikarpov, Vice-President, Sub-Saharan Africa, said nuclear energy offers lower operating costs - as opposed to other energy sources.

"It's in view of the fact, the cost of uranium, which serves as nuclear fuel is comparatively low - when compared with fossil fuels, used in powering gas and coal turbines," Mr Polikarpov said in a statement to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday.

The Nigerian government signed an agreement with the Russian state-owned nuclear energy corporation last October to build and operate a nuclear power plant, the first of its kind on the continent, as well as a research centre that would house a nuclear research reactor.

The agreement was a furtherance of a memorandum of understanding signed between the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission, NAEC, and Rosatom for the construction of four nuclear power plants at the cost of $20 billion (more than N6 trillion). The four plants will have a total capacity of 4,800 megawatts by 2035.

The agreement came amidst safety concerns about the use of nuclear energy in Nigeria.

Nigeria currently relies on gas and hydro power plants for its electricity supplies.

Mr Polikarpov said even though the cost of constructing a nuclear power plant is quite high, the cost implications of operating them are quite low.

"The average lifespan of a modern nuclear reactor is 60-80 years. This variable, when taken into consideration, make the expense of delivering power from a nuclear plant quite low.

"If the cost of uranium doubles, for instance, the cost of electricity produced by nuclear will only increase marginally. This cannot be said about conventional energy sources.

"However, if the price of coal doubles, it implies that the final cost of electricity will be 70 percent more; same applies to gas. However, the cost of uranium, which is produced on a nuclear power plant, has just a three percent implication on the cost of electricity. Even if the cost of uranium rises, electricity consumers may not even feel the little impact it would have on electricity."

Mr Polikarpov said electricity consumers in Nigeria would benefit hugely from nuclear energy.

"If you have predictable prices for electricity for the next 60 years, which is the minimum time to operate a modern nuclear power plant, it really helps to grow the economy."

Despite its benefits, Nigeria's poor maintenance culture is at the heart of the vigorous opposition to nuclear-powered electricity, activists say.

Achike Chude, a civil society activist, said countries with advanced technologies, such as Japan, had been unable to nuclear-related disasters in their region.

"You want to believe that any government in this country that is thinking of the nuclear option is not just a lazy government but an extremely irresponsible government," said Mr Chude, the Vice Chairman of Joint Action Front, a network of labour and civil society groups.

"And the reasons are very clear: they have not been able to generate enough energy with technologies that are much more accessible in the past decades despite the billions of dollars that had been put into energy generation in Nigeria.

"We have failed spectacularly in generation and transmission. We have not been able to maintain our road infrastructure that does not need any serious technology. So on what basis are we going nuclear, to an advanced technology which is exceedingly dangerous?"

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