By Kester Kenn Klomegah, GNA’s Moscow Bureau Chief

MOSCOW (Russia), Aug 02, GNA – Leaders of African governments are keenly interested in adopting nuclear energy to end chronic power deficit but some may be forced either to keep postponing or completely abandon the project primarily due to lack of funds or credit guarantees.

Within the framework of 2018 BRICS summit held in Johannesburg, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told his counterpart, Vladimir Putin, at a bilateral meeting his country was not ready to renew an agreement on the construction of nuclear power plants there.

Putin raised the subject of a nuclear deal at a private conversation with Ramaphosa, but his host said Pretoria could not sign such a deal for now.

Ramaphosa has put nuclear expansion on the back burner since taking office in February, saying, it is too expensive, and has focused instead on pledges to revive the economy and crack down on corruption.

“We have to look at where the economy is - we have excess power and we have no money to go for a major nuclear plant building. The nuclear process will be looked at in the broad context of affordability.”

Under Jacob Zuma, South Africa championed plans to build as many as eight reactors that would generate 9,600 megawatts of energy starting from 2023 and cost as much as US$84 billion - a programme, critics said the country could not afford and did not need.

There is only one nuclear power plant on the entire African continent - Koeberg nuclear power station in South Africa.

Commissioned in 1984, Koeberg provides nearly 2,000 megawatts, about five per cent of installed electricity generation in South Africa.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with the Hommes d’Afrique magazine, that Russia and African countries were cooperating on high technology.

“Rosatom is considering a number of projects that are of interest to Africans, for instance the creation of a nuclear research and technology centre in Zambia. Nigeria has a similar project.

There are good prospects for cooperation with Ghana, Tanzania and Ethiopia. Talks are underway on the construction of a nuclear power plant in South Africa”, he said

Foreign and local media reported that Russia wanted to turn nuclear energy into a major export industry.

It has signed several agreements with African countries with no nuclear tradition, including Rwanda and Zambia, and is set to build a large nuclear plant in Egypt.

“Indeed, Rwanda has just joined the chorus by signing an MOU with the Russians to build a nuclear power plant.

This is something of a joke. How will this be financed? Rwanda’s annual budget is US$3 billion. A nuclear power plant will cost no less than US$9 billion which is equivalent to Rwanda’s entire Gross Domestic Product,” David Himbara, Rwandan-Canadian Professor of International Development at Canada’s Centennial College, told GNA in an emailed interview.

He said that Rwandan President Paul Kagame always believed that he must validate his supposedly visionary and innovative leadership by pronouncing grand projects that rarely materialised.

Nonetheless, Ghana has also signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the State Atomic Energy Corporation of the Federation of Russia for the construction of a nuclear power plant. The plant will produce up 1,200 megawatts.

The Russian reactor will cost a minimum of $4.2 billion. The financing scheme has not been finalised. It will take about eight to 10 years from site feasibility studies to commissioning of the first unit.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s 2017 Report concluded that Ghana was still in an early phase of developing nuclear energy.

So far, Ghana has enacted a comprehensive nuclear law and established an independent Nuclear Regulatory Authority.

In the case of Zambia, the agreement concluded in December 2016, to build a nuclear plant is worth US$10 billion.

Shadreck Luwita, Zambian Ambassador to the Russian Federation, told GNA in Moscow that the processes of design, feasibility study and approvals regarding the project had almost been concluded.

The Zambian Government hoped that upon commissioning of this project, excess power generated from this plant could be made available for export to neighbouring countries under the Southern African Development Community Power Pool framework arrangement, he added.

Dr. Scott Firsing, a Research Fellow at Monash University South Africa, said Africa and the world needed nuclear, along with solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal, for cleaner energy.

Africa could leapfrog outdated technology and helped to lead a new clean energy revolution.

He said “nuclear will always have a role in energy generation because it’s the best way of producing large amounts of carbon-free electricity.

The key hindrance is the cost of producing nuclear energy and how best to deal with nuclear waste so as to maintain safe environment, the risk that it poses from poor handling and management.”

Professor Stephen Thomas, a Nuclear Economist from the University of Greenwich in the United Kingdom explained that African countries lacked the nuclear expertise, infrastructure and the financing.

“Nuclear power is an expensive diversion from policies that could meet the objectives of improving the reliability of electricity supplies in Africa, making power affordable for consumers and meeting environmental goals.”

Prof Thomas said, “My advice to African governments is to learn from history. Nuclear is too high an economic risk for countries that cannot afford to make big mistakes.

They must be guided by Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine and Fukushima in Japan, millions of people are still suffering from radiation and radiation related diseases till today.”

Over 620 million in Sub-Saharan Africa out of one billion people do not have electricity.

It is in this context that several African countries are exploring nuclear energy as part of the solution. Russia is on a charm offensive across Africa signing MoUs with many governments to build nuclear power plants.

Originally published in Ghana News Agency on August 2nd, 2018. Link: