Nigeria is the biggest economy in the African continent and the most populous with 154 million. Nigeria is famous for oil and gas as they are the biggest African exporter; however, the electricity generation is extremely insufficient with only 59% of the population having access to electricity. Only 56% of the city’s population benefit from electricity while a staggering 64% of the rural Nigerian doesn’t have electricity. The government is having an ambitious target of providing universal access by 2030, to realize this objective a massive investment in the energy sector must be done; currently, they are eyeing renewables and nuclear to achieve this goal.
Nigeria current electricity generation capacity is about 8,300 MW, however, the peak the country ever reached is only 5,222 MW recorded in 18th December 2017. This situation is mainly due to the loss of power generation during the transmission phase to distribution companies which accounts for 16%. In other words, only 4,300MW gets to distribution companies, which is creating a crisis situation within the Nigerian’s electricity sector. Also, restricted output has been blamed on gas supply problems, water shortages, grid constraints, and breakdowns. According to Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Works, Power, and Housing, “Nigeria energy consumption in 2018 is mainly composed of gas-fired power (85%) and hydropower (15%)”. This shows how dependent Nigeria is on fossil fuels which are very polluting and subject to sabotage of the pipelines.
The necessity of renewables and nuclear is clearly obvious in the country’s energy mix, to cope with economic development and provide a reliable basis for Africa’s first economy. The intention of the government toward those energies have been stated already as Nigeria want to produce 30% of its energy from renewables by 2030. Same applies to nuclear energy as it’s regarded as a cheap, reliable, and stable alternative to fossil fuels.
According to the Chairman/CEO of the Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC), Simon Pesco Mallam, “The country has concrete plans on erecting its first nuclear plant by mid-2020’s but is still putting logistics in place to make this a reality.” The Nigerian federal government has set a target of generating 4,800 MW from nuclear between 2025 and 2028. To reach that objective Nigeria already started the process to acquire nuclear technology, as they signed an agreement with ROSATOM (Russia) to build and operate a nuclear power plant as well as a Multipurpose Research Reactor Complex (MRRC) that would house a nuclear research reactor. MRRC could boost new technological industry platforms, agricultural export, regional investment climates, and jobs creation. ROSATOM will construct four nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 4,800 MW that will cost around $20 billion. Nigeria could rely on Nuclear industry gathering such as Africa Nuclear Business Platform which is dedicated to New Builds in Africa to grow their network and find serious partners to help them develop their program.
Nigeria has been cooperating with IAEA to assess its readiness for nuclear, as IAEA conducted in 2015 two missions to check the preparedness and compliance of Nigeria with its framework. Furthermore, another mission took place in July 2017, resulting in an optimistic assessment from the team. The potential sites chosen by the government to host the NPPs are Itu in Cross River and Geregu in Benue. The agreement with ROSATOM will be in form Build-Own-Operate (BOO) model, with the majority of equity coming from ROSATOM. Also, an agreement has been signed by Imo State’s government and the United States’ Barnett Holding Co to evaluate potential sites in Owerri for the deployment of 5-20 MW modular reactors.
With regards to building a competent nuclear workforce, the Nigerian Petroleum Technology Development Fund (NPTDF) disclosed to have received 27,474 applications from young Nigerians seeking financial support to study various nuclear technology-related curricula in Russia.
Nevertheless, Security concerns remain a big issue for Nigeria and African countries in general, terrorist organizations such as Boko Haram could target nuclear facilities to acquire radioactive material from which they could make a dirty bomb. Also, According to Wikileaks, Al-Qaeda had plans to procure nuclear material and recruit unscrupulous scientists to develop “dirty bombs”. The 2013 attack on the Somair uranium mine in Niger or the 2016 surveillance by ISIS to a senior Belgian nuclear official are examples of terrorist groups’ intention. Nigerian officials from the Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission claim that they have taken appropriate measures to prevent such security risks. According to a “Nuclear Security for A New Comer Country-Nigeria’s Approach.” by Ofodile O.N. and Agedah E.C. which highlight that a National Nuclear Security Committee (NNSC) has been established to set up a national nuclear security centre, and raise awareness about nuclear security culture for all national stakeholders in the nuclear industry. Also, to mitigate this threat Nigeria started training programmes as well as certification programmes such as the WINS nuclear security professional certifications, and maintenance of a dynamic DBT.
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