Kiril Komarov, First Deputy Director-General for Development and International Business, Rosatom.

Energy News Africa’s Editor, Michael Creg Afful, who was in Cape Town to cover the African Energy Week 2023, interviewed Kiril Komarov, First Deputy Director-General for Development and International Business, Rosatom, on powering Africa using nuclear energy.

Below is the full interview:

Question: What are the plans for African-Russian cooperation in the field of nuclear energy?

Africa is undoubtedly the future, a continent marked by a swiftly growing population, flourishing economies, and rapid advancement. Various countries consistently announce ambitious plans and hopeful visions for Africa, particularly in the energy sector. However, not all of these envisioned plans materialize.

Rosatom stands out as one of the few entities actively actualizing these aspirations. We are at the forefront of executing one of the pivotal energy projects in Africa: the El-Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), Africa’s premier and most advanced nuclear power facility, constructed in collaboration with our Egyptian partners along Egypt’s Mediterranean coast. Central to the project are the Russian-designed VVER-1200 reactors, embodying the pinnacle of Generation 3+ technology.

The substantial phase of construction commenced last year, marked by the pouring of the “first concrete” into the foundation of the inaugural power unit. Progress has been steadfast, with the simultaneous construction of three power units underway. Recently, in August, we acquired a license to construct Unit 4, intending to initiate its major construction phase by year’s end with the pouring of the first concrete.

Alongside these developments, the workforce at the site is expected to burgeon to 16,000 individuals by the conclusion of this year. We anticipate that this endeavour will ascend to become the globe’s most substantial nuclear construction project.

Rosatom also possesses significant mining assets in Namibia and Tanzania.

With collective Russian investments in all African projects surpassing 27 billion US dollars – a level of commitment that is unparalleled.

Africa has always been a significant partner for Russia, and in the field of nuclear energy, this partnership holds immense potential. Our future cooperation plans with African nations are multifaceted and strategically designed to unlock mutual benefits. Firstly, we aim to assist in the development and expansion of nuclear infrastructure in various African countries, providing access to reliable and low-carbon electricity, vital for sustainable economic growth. Secondly, we are focused on enhancing skills and knowledge transfer, which includes education and training programs for African professionals in the nuclear sector.

Moreover, Rosatom is keen on promoting non-power applications of nuclear technologies that offer vast benefits in sectors such as medicine, agriculture, and water management. We believe that these collaborations will not only foster technological advancement but also contribute to improving the quality of life in Africa.

We’re seeing more and more African nations showing interest. And there’s a number of nations in Africa that have done a great deal of work to get down the path towards nuclear. And when I say that, I mean, they’re following the International Atomic Energy Agency’s key milestone approach. Countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, they’re doing great things in terms of getting to where they need to be as a nation to safely implement a nuclear program.

Question: Does project implementation affect the development of nuclear power expertise in the countries? What benefits do they receive?

Rosatom is deeply committed to fostering the growth and nurturing the potential of Africa’s nuclear industry, placing a significant emphasis on capacity building and technology transfer. Our strategy revolves around creating a technological ecosystem that not only propels advancements in the nuclear sector but also profoundly empowers local talents and communities.

Education is a cornerstone of our initiatives. Proudly, we’ve facilitated nuclear programs in Russia where over 2,000 African students are currently acquiring essential knowledge and skills, preparing them as the next wave of nuclear professionals to lead the industry in their home countries.

Our approach to technology transfer is anchored in values of transparency and community acceptance. We dedicate ourselves to ensuring that nuclear projects are executed with clear communication and engagement with communities, aiming for informed and participatory development processes that uphold safety and respect for local environments.

Additionally, we emphasize the importance of infrastructure development and localization in our collaborations with African partners. We strive to incorporate local industries and communities into the broader supply chain, aiming to boost economic resilience, sustainability, and autonomous growth. Our efforts go beyond the mere construction of nuclear facilities; they contribute fundamentally to the building of robust economies and enriched societies.

Construction and operation of two-unit NPPs provide jobs for more than 10,000 people in the area of nuclear infrastructure and create more than 3,000 new jobs to work at NPP. Each US dollar invested in a NPP construction project (recalculated in the local currency) brings, on average, US $4,3 to GDP to the host country and, on average, US $1.4 to the host country’s budget as taxes.

Rosatom envisions a relationship with Africa that is rooted in mutual growth, technological progression, and sustainable success. Through our holistic strategy, we aim to plant the seeds of enduring development and shared prosperity in the African nuclear landscape.

Question: How does Rosatom intend to adapt its nuclear solutions considering Africa’s diverse technological readiness and regulatory landscapes?

It’s essential to underscore that our strategies are meticulously curated, centered on the individualized needs and objectives of each client and region within Africa. Through thorough consultations, we aim to gain profound insights into the unique challenges and aspirations of each area, enabling the precise tailoring of our nuclear solutions. Acknowledging the rich diversity across the African continent – in terms of technological preparedness, regulatory norms, and specific energy necessities – is at the heart of our approach. We prioritize flexibility and adaptability, ensuring that our offerings are not only responsive but also exceed the distinct expectations of each region. For areas with well-established infrastructures and heightened energy demands, our premier offerings like large-scale Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) remain a formidable choice. They promise a consistent, powerful, and enduring energy provision, essential for sustained economic upliftment and industrial evolution.

Our innovative Floating Nuclear Power Plants (FNPPs) epitomize adaptability, offering a remarkable solution especially suited to isolated areas and islands where traditional large-scale facilities may not be viable. FNPPs herald a synergy of adaptability and reach, ensuring that varied regions can benefit from dependable and eco-friendly energy sources.

Africa has a vast and diverse coastline that stretches along both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The total length of Africa’s coastline is approximately 30,500 kilometres. Our floating SMR solutions epitomize our dedication to providing tailor-made energy solutions for Africa. A unique advantage of Rosatom’s optimized floating nuclear power plants lies in their mobility, enabling power generation to be strategically located along the coastline, close to Africa’s major ports and easily increased as more power is required. This breakthrough innovation now presents the opportunity to efficiently wheel power from the nearest port to the end user, minimising transmission losses and enhancing the reliability of electricity supply to this highly industrialised and populous region. By leveraging this capability, Africa can mitigate the challenges associated with power cuts and address the escalating demand for electricity.

Additionally, Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) hold a vital place in our diverse arsenal of solutions. With their inherent adaptability, SMRs are perfectly suited for regions with moderate energy needs or restricted grid capabilities. Their modularity allows for seamless integration into various energy landscapes, accommodating the distinct demands and capacities of diverse areas.

In conclusion, Rosatom’s dedication to Africa is illuminated through innovative, adaptable, and client orientated energy solutions. With a multifaceted portfolio, our mission is to empower the continent with sustainable, customized energy strategies meticulously aligned with regional needs and potentials.

Question: I’ve noticed media reports concerning a meeting with Ghana’s minister to deliberate on the Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) and Floating Nuclear Power Plant (FNPP). Could you provide more details about the discussions and the subsequent steps planned?

Yes, that is right. We have submitted our proposal in the Request for Financial Proposals (RFFI) for Nuclear Power Plant.

But one local project is not limiting the country. We are advocating for the introduction of the FNPP fleet to booster local industries and further nuclear development in the country. Regardless of the outcome of these procedural steps, it appears that Ghana is on a promising trajectory to become a significant player in the nuclear sector imminently, and we are highly enthusiastic about this prospective.