Zambia is the third economy of Southern Africa region after South Africa and Angola with a GDP of $25.8 Billion which accounts for approximately 4.5% of the regional GDP. Zambia’s economy is heavily dependent on the extractive sector especially copper. Zambia is suffering from energy shortage and drought which is affecting the economy and development of the country.
Zambia generated 2,800 MW 81% from biomass, 11% from hydro and 8% from oil. The government is looking seriously into enhancing electricity supply to promote economic and infrastructure development. The objective is to expand and improve electricity generation, transmission, and distribution. Zambia is considering nuclear as a viable option as stated by Professor Nkandu Luo, Minister of Higher Education “nuclear power is the key factor in the improvement of the well being of the country while the pivotal role in the development of the nuclear power sector is played by three elements: development of nuclear infrastructure, highly qualified human resources of the country and inter-university cooperation between Russia and Zambia.”
Nuclear energy will be implemented in Zambia in two phases. First, a research reactor will be built within 3 to 6 years before the acquisition of a power plant. This research reactor will be used for medical purposes as currently medical isotopes are being imported from South Africa. Also, the reactor is supposed to boost agricultural export to Europe and the US as explained by the Zambian ambassador to Russia, Shadreck Luwita “one of the laboratories will be used for the irradiation of crops and this will give us an opportunity for various types of crops which are grown in Zambia to be exported to the Russian market, the European Union, and indeed to the United States,”
This center will be built by the Russian following the signing in 2017 between the two countries of an inter-governmental agreement. The agreement provides for the center’s construction based on a multipurpose nuclear research water-cooled reactor with a capacity of 10 MW. The center is expected to include a laboratory complex, multipurpose irradiation center, and a cyclotron-based nuclear medicine center.
According to Dr. Reuben Katebe, National Coordinator of the Nuclear Energy Program Implementing Organization “the second phase will see the construction of a nuclear power plant which will have the capacity to produce about 2,400 megawatts of electricity, which will provide an opportunity for the country to be energy secure and be able to export electricity to other countries in the region.” he also added that the “the nuclear program in Zambia was at its initial stage of planning and required certain milestones to be achieved before full implementation.” Dr. Katebe will be attending Africa Nuclear Business Platform in Kenya to discuss infrastructure requirements and share about Zambia’s current nuclear program.
Nuclear energy will be beneficial to the economy and a vector of development as a whole according to officials, it will bring investment to the country and generate billions of dollars.
“the nuclear power plant through its lifetime was estimated to generate about US$22 billion revenue which was a positive development.”
Dr. Roland Msiska, Secretary to the Cabinet of the Republic of Zambia
In conclusion, introducing nuclear energy to Zambia will be a driver of progress and have a positive impact on the country and its people. Currently, 69% of Zambian doesn’t have access to electricity, the government is aiming for universal access by 2030. Nuclear could play a role in achieving that goal by providing a reliable source of energy.
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