Stable, predictable and cheap do not describe the current supply of electricity in Nigeria. Many are seriously concerned over when and how the country would be able to achieve such feat. In the horizon is an option that many, especially in Nigeria would not have seen coming- Nuclear Power.
Nuclear power is often mentally pictured with wars, missiles and more dramatically, the apocalypse. It is indeed a subject that raises eyebrows and grabs attention whenever mentioned. Unknown to some however, is the fact that nuclear power has way more positive applications as against its more popular destructive reputation.
Since Nigeria announced its decision to explore nuclear power for electricity generation, many Nigerians have aired their views on the subject. The common denominator is that many are not very convinced of the benefits of employing this energy source while the safety of having a nuclear plant is another bone of contention.
Nuclear Power can sustainably provide for Nigeria more reliable and relatively cheaper power than we have at the moment.
This is according to Dr Kirill Kamarov, First Deputy CEO of Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear energy company.
In an interview closely monitored by Sparkonline, granted by Dr. Komarov to Hi-Tech, the concerns of many Nigerians were addressed stressing that nuclear power would usher in a period of great improvements both in the power sector and in the entire economy.
Speaking on the back of some agreements signed by Nigeria and Russia on the construction of the first nuclear power plant in Nigeria, Mr Kirill gave more insight on the subject.
One opportunity is the fact that there is a huge energy deficit in Nigeria; there are several figures to compare. Nigeria’s population is more than that of Russia. We have 140 million people in Russia, Nigeria has about 180 million. We have about 220 Gigawatts of electricity in the national energy system, Nigeria has six Gigawatts. This means that Nigeria is suffering from lack of electricity.
Nigeria is very similar to Russia. We have many natural resources like coal, gas, among others, just as Nigeria does. But even at that, Russia is still investing in nuclear.
He emphasised the Russia and Rosatom’s long and rich experience both in the power sector and especially in nuclear power give a guarantee of knowledge and most importantly, safety in the methods and processes that Rosatom would use in putting the power plant together.
…the most unique is that we are the only organisation in the world that combines all the technological elements in the nuclear area; from mining and enrichment of uranium to production of nuclear fuels to manufacturing of nuclear equipment, construction of nuclear power plants among others.
For a country like Nigeria, it means we can bring a lot to the table because our experience is now more than 70 years. We began our nuclear experience in Russia in 1945 just after the Second World War. In 2015, we celebrated our 70th year anniversary.
Giving further information on why his country pursues nuclear energy in spite of its numerous natural resources and energy alternatives, Dr Kiril said that it was important for every country to have a special solution as to what sort of energy mix it wants to have.
He opined that it is rather risky for a country with a huge and active population to rely on only one source of energy no matter how efficient it is.
He then highlighted how the cost of Uranium, unlike coal or other energy raw materials, has a very little effect on the cost of electricity generated.
For example, we have a lot of coal and gas, but their prices have a high volatility. Sometimes they are very high, sometimes they are low. What we must take note of is the final cost of electricity, which is approximately 60 or 70 percent higher. If the price of coal doubles, it means that the final cost of electricity will be 70 percent more; same for 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 goes up, you may not even feel the little impact it would have on electricity. That is very important for the people and for the industries. If you have predictable prices for electricity for the next sixty years, which is the minimum time to operate a modern nuclear power plant, it really helps to grow the economy.
Dr Kirill said that upon the completion of all preparatory work in terms of plans and agreements, the feasibility study would be concluded in the next two years so that work could commence on the project before the start of 2019.
It is a good opportunity for both countries.
Our focus is on preparing a detailed plan on how we can answer all the tough questions in the space of two years.
Besides the power plant itself, Nigeria also signed another agreement with Russia in 2016 in Moscow for the establishment of the first multi-purpose nuclear research centre in Nigeria. This is expected to be ratified and executed before the power plant is completed. Upon completion, the facility would not only aid research in the area of electricity generation but also in medicine and agriculture.
It is very important because it (the multipurpose nuclear reasearch) can be done much faster than a nuclear power plant. It can create a platform for the future nuclear development of the country, and can help young people to start making scientific experiments and research in the field.
It is a very practical step and can aid in area of nuclear medicine.
The centre would be able to make nuclear isotopes that can aid therapy and fight against cancer and other types of ontological diseases.
This will also aid in the agricultural sector.
Radiological treatments can keep agricultural products fresher for longer. It also fights against microbes.
Dr Kirill revealed that the expectation is to finalize plans, sign all relevant contracts before the first half of 2018, and construct the nuclear research centre in the second half of 2018.
Concluding, he gave some more explanations on why nuclear power is a wise direction for Nigeria
It is true that nuclear is new for Nigeria. But it is new for a lot of countries as well. But it should be a comfortable move when you are working with an experienced partner like Rosatom. Using an energy mix is very profitable.
You can use coal, solar, wind, hydro and nuclear. Nuclear is very stable and very predictable. Coal and gas plants are like a box, but it’s not your box. It is a box which is imported to your country from another country, and the participation of Nigerian industry in construction is very small.
We can calculate the social economic impact of the construction of nuclear power plants to the whole economy. Each dollar invested in a nuclear power plant adds three to four dollars to a country’s GDP.
The equipment is produced from metal, so the equipment producer makes some orders to the metal producer, who will pay salaries for people, produce the next level of orders, and on each level, you have money and there is a multiplier effect. This has a positive effect on the economy, particularly now there is recession.