Africa Rising: Nigeria plans to build nuclear power plants
Africa could be home to an unlikely boom in nuclear power plant construction, as Nigeria plans to join South Africa as the continent's second nuclear nation.
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"[Nuclear plants] are already dinosaurs," said Cape Town Branch Coordinator Muna Lukhani of South Africa's green energy advocacy group Earth Life Africa. Referring to the steam-powered turbines central to most plants, he adds: "Nuclear power is an extremely expensive and dangerous way with which to boil water."
Expensive, sure: But less expensive by the plant.
For starters, the nuclear industry has been rocked by a second quake, the global economic downturn, which has shifted interest away from US and Europe, towards developing countries that need smaller reactors, cheaper, now.
Of the roughly 60 designs for nuclear, many of the more recent blueprints envision centers a tenth of the size of the 2,000 megawatt plants of the 1970s. By 2014, Bill Gates and Toshiba Corps – the laptop company – are aiming to start production of nuclear mini-reactors compact enough to sit in a hot tub.
These safes are so safe, Kemm says, that he would gladly "live in a tent next to a nuclear reactor for the rest of my life." Many of these plants require "no more than a half dozen highly-skilled individuals" to operate, he says. Plus, "these are small nuclear reactors," he adds. "You can scatter them wherever you want."
"Any African country can do it," he says.
Certainly, physicist Imoh Obioh on President Jonathan's Atomic Energy Commission thinks Nigeria can.
"Our plan is mainly to expand Nigeria's electricity generation base from fossil fuels (oil and gas) to include renewables and nuclear," Mr. Obioh wrote in an e-mail to the Christian Science Monitor. "This is to make sure that Nigeria gradually strives to attain energy security."
For Igor Khripunov, Associate Director for the Athens, Georgia-based Center for International Trade and Security, it's less a question of could than should.
"For Nigeria, there's no compelling reason to start generating electricity by building nuclear power infrastructure," he said citing the country's oil wealth, its horrid reputation for corruption, and the fact that its grid might not easily support a plant.
"Other considerations are behind their decision," he adds. "It's prestige, that's how I can interpret it."
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