As Nigeria seeks permanent solutions to its current power sector crisis, experts at the recently concluded Atomic Energy Exhibition (ATOMEXPO) in Sochi, Russia, recommend nuclear energy adoption as a way forward. AKINOLA AJIBADE writes.
EXPERTS in the energy sector have advised Nigeria to embrace nuclear energy technology, with a view to solve its energy problems. They added that the country would more than double its electricity generation, once the technology is rightly deployed. According to them, electricity megawatts (Mw) required by Nigeria is huge and can be accessed through the use of the technology.
The experts are among the 3,600 delegates from 74 countries, which attended the two-day-forum tagged: x1 International Forum and Atomexpo 2019 in Russia.
According to them, one gigawatt of electricity will equal 1,000 megawatts, adding that Nigeria will be able to produce at least two gigawatts of electricity, once the country invest substantially in nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy technology, they said, is multi-dimensional in nature as it could be deployed to improve a lot of activities in the economy. They advise developed and developing countries to embrace the technology for growth.
A delegate and Director-General, ROSATOM, Alexey Likhachev, said nuclear energy technology is the way forward. He urged countries to tap into the opportunities offered by the technology by using it to engender growth in other sectors of the economy aside power.
Nigeria’s power sector
This sector requires improvement as it generates less than 5,000Mw of electricity, a figure barely not enough to galvanise the growth of the economy. The figure represents the volume of electricity  in use in the country as different from 2,000 megawatts of electricity, which the Federal Government through the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, claimed in a recent stakeholders’ forum in Lagos, that they are stranded and as such cannot be useful for the country.
Likhachev, in his opening remarks, urged Nigeria to embrace the technology in order to encourage the growth of the power sector. He advised delegates to use the technology to achieve the world’s sustainable development goals.
Power, he said, is key to the realisation of the aims and goals of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, stressing that Nigeria and other countries seeking to improve their energy needs should try and embrace the technology for growth.
Likhachev said: “Nuclear energy, also known as atomic energy, comes from splitting atoms in a reactor to heat water into steam, turn a turbine and generate electricity. Given that reactors in nuclear power plants use uranium, the technology does not produce dangerous carbon emission such as those produced by fossils fuels such as coal power plants. Nuclear generation can work for years with less dependence on raw materials and fuel.”
He added that each area of human activity is affected by the achievement of nuclear industry, hence the need for the adoption of nuclear energy technology by countries, which need growth in key areas of human endeavours.
Also, India Atomic Energy Commission’s Chairman, Kamlesh Nilkanth Vyas, said nuclear energy technology is the way out of the problems facing developed and developing economies. He said India has grown its power sector tremendously by building 22 nuclear power stations, adding that the country is planning to build 10 more nuclear power stations to increase its energy capacity.
Nigeria, an agrarian economy, needs the technology to improve the quality of its farm produce. With the country depending on agricultural products for survival and exporting some, preservation of the quality of the products is required for growth.
According to Vyas,  India relies on nuclear energy technology to preserve its agricultural produce, urging countries to do the same thing. He said the technology has enhanced the quality of the mangoes and other products being exported as they are free from germs.
Healthcare delivery
The nuclear energy technology helps in electricity generation and assists in cancer treatment among other diseases, says Vyas. He said the technology helps in treating many deadly diseases, if they are rightly used, advising scientists to conduct research on the technology.
He said there is the fear of using the technology because of  its deadly effects when poorly handled or in case of accidents, which has brought about the reluctance to adopt it.
Vyas said radiation is one of the biggest fears people have when it comes to nuclear energy technology, but the gains from the technology, according to him, outweigh the fears.
“There are fears of using the technology due to its deadly effects when poorly handled or in case of accidents, that reluctance to adopt it needs to stop. When it comes to nuclear energy, there is fear of the unknown. Fear for radiation is the biggest challenge. But the gains from the use of technology make it easy for people to see the benefits,” he added.
A former Director, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEE), Hnas Blix, said the body is helping to foster the use of cancer diagnosis and therapy through nuclear means in developing nations such as Cuba, Tanzania, Ghana and Nicaragua.  Other measures, he said, include providing a forum for discussing effects of low level radiation caused by the use of nuclear technology.
Food irradiation
He said studies have shown that irradiation technology is gaining more attention as it helps in preserving food globally. Health and safety institutions in 37 countries, he said, have approved irradiation of over 40 kinds of food, ranging from spices to grains, to chicken, fruits and vegetables. Consumers, Blix said, can safely enjoy irradiated strawberries and sausage in France and Thailand respectively.
Climate change has remained one of the biggest problems facing humanity.  United Nations Summit on Climate Change had in 2009 discussed the harmful effects of climate change globally on individuals and nations in order to proffer solutions to them.
Environmental Progress President, Micheal Shellenberger, said nuclear energy technology is an antidote to bad climatic conditions facing people around the world. Shellenberger, who spoke at the conference, said African countries, including Nigeria, are experiencing water pollution and other ecological problems, adding that nuclear power would help reduce emission of carbon dioxide, if properly managed.
It would be recalled that Nigeria had in 2017 signed an agreement with the Russian government on how to produce nuclear energy in the country.  Similarly, Rwanda signed a co-operation agreement on the use of atomic energy with Russia in 2018.

The article was written by Akinola Ajibade and published in The Nation newspaper (Nigeria) on 25 April 2019. Link to the original publication