Solving Nigeria’s power crisis using nuclear technology
Nigeria’s perpetual erratic power supply has continued without any solutions in sight soon. Previous governments had attempted to solve this challenge through various energy mix which includes hydro (water), thermal (natural gas) and renewables (solar). However, in addition to existing Nigeria’s energy mix, the present administration is planning to embrace nuclear technology in providing permanent solution to the power crises rocking Nigeria. In this report, OLATUNDE DODONDAWA examines the benefits and challenges inherent in the policy. Excerpt.
IT is a known fact that every nation that aims to develop its economy must have a stable, reliable, cheap and efficient power supply. Adequate power supply leads to job creation, which in turn leads to improved welfare of the citizens, this in turn led to economic growth and ultimately, economic development. All the economic indicators listed above are lacking in Nigeria, no wonder Nigeria remains a poor country.
However, the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, took a leap of faith in October 2017 when it signed an agreement with Russia on the construction of a nuclear research and development center.
Nigeria has been a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency since 1964, but its nuclear relationship with Russia did not begin until 2009 when both countries signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the field of the peaceful usage of nuclear technologies. Shortly after, another agreement was signed on cooperation in design, construction, operation and decommissioning of the Nuclear Power Plant and the Nuclear Research Centre housing a multi-purpose nuclear research reactor.
Nuclear energy is considered to be reliable, safe, cheap and durable. The minimum life span of a nuclear power plant is 65 years with option to upgrade to 100 years. Uses of nuclear technologies include medicine, carbon dating, desalination, diagnosis, therapy, sterilization, insect control, food irradiation, inspection and instrumentation and industrial racers amongst others.
There is palpable fear in the miHow safe is nuclear power plant?nd of an average Nigerian when the word “Nuclear Power” is mentioned. But nuclear technology is not the same as nuclear power and moreso, nuclear power is not the same as nuclear bomb. Nuclear technology involves the use of the nuclear reactions of atomic nuclei. Nuclear technology is used in medicine, agriculture and power generation. All these are classified as peaceful use of nuclear technology which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) approves.
Most experts have argued that nuclear power plant is safe because modern nuclear power plants are equipped with secure multi-layer safety system that can protect it against missile attacks, tsunami, and other external threats. Because of an increase in global energy demand, nuclear generating technologies are successfully used to produce electric power and heat.
How safe is radiation from a nuclear power plant?
Nuclear power plants emit radiation which is safe. Such radiation does not spread beyond the reactor active zone. It means radiation from nuclear power plant cannot affect human settlements within the area. But as a precaution, the IAEA approves certain diameter by which human settlements may be allowed. Moreover, out of the 100 per cent radiation on earth, the sun is responsible for 70 per cent; anthropogenic sources (that is by human activities which include grenhouse emissions, x-rays, etc) are responsible for 29 per cent radiation while nuclear power plant operations are responsible for just one per cent, according to IAEA reports. The reports stated that radioactive elements are permanently present in the world and around us even in human body tissues. In nuclear power plants, all hazardous substances remain within the fuel itself.
The Fukushima nuclear accident was caused by a major earthquake which resulted into a 15-meter tsunami and disabled the power supply and the cooling of three reactors in March 11, 2011. There have been no deaths or cases of radiation sickness from the nuclear accident.
Another major nuclear accident recorded in history was at Chernobyl which is considered the world’s worst nuclear disaster to date. It occurred on April 26, 1986, when a sudden surge in power during a reactor systems test resulted in an explosion and fire that destroyed Unit 4. The accident was the result of a flawed reactor design that was operated with inadequately trained personnel. Two workers died as a result of the explosion while 28 firefighters died as a result of ofacute radiation syndrome (ARS).
Following the accidents, several punitive measures have been put in place through research to ensure that nuclear accidents hardly occur.
Expert opinion on the benefit of nuclear power plantSpeaking on the advantages of operating a nuclear power plants in Nigeria, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Rosatom Central & SouthernAfrica, Dmitry Shornikov, stated that shortage of sustainable and affordable energy sources make it difficult for African nations like Nigeria to implement its strategic industrialization goals, against a background of growing urbanization as well as demands for employment and modern infrastructure. “The importance of the industrial sector ina country’s economic development cannot be over-emphasized,” he said.
He said nuclear technologies will bring various economic advantage such as new technological industry platforms, national industrial development, improved regional investment climates, agricultural export growth, new jobs as well as increased life expectancy andimproved quality of life for the Nigerian population.