Nuclear Power: A Possibility in Nigeria?￼
The International Renewable Energy Agency reported that at the end of 2021, the number of Nigerians without access to grid electricity rose by 90 million – a 5.8% increase in the estimations previously made by the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN). This accounts for over 43% of Nigeria’s rural population.
The inability of the country to meet her growing power demand is adversely affecting the productivity of her citizens. The potential for economic growth and development is inhibited as every sector of the economy requires a substantial power supply for sustenance.
The poor state of power in the country has placed significant constraints on businesses’ thriving capacity, resulting in an estimated economic loss of $26.2 billion annually.
Additionally, the inadequacies in power supply and transmission have exacerbated the country’s state, causing major setbacks. The over-hiked cost of fuel, an assessable alternative energy source (using generators), has resulted in the close of businesses in Nigeria, not leaving out foreign investors.
Considering the alarming economic decline caused by demand and supply mismatch, it is necessary to explore alternative safer means of electricity generation. Nuclear energy is considered to mitigate future damage from an inadequate electricity supply.
Nuclear Energy is the cleanest, most efficient form of energy next to wind energy. American household consumes 1kw-h of energy in 48 minutes, and nuclear power only emits 12g of CO2. This is relatively lower compared with other alternative sources of clean energy.
This is highly recommended for a country like Nigeria with CO2 footprints from diverse activities carried out daily. The adoption will substantially reduce the emission of greenhouse gases as well as meet the fast-growing electricity demand.
Furthermore, the power harnessed from nuclear energy is obtained by using any of the nuclear reactors (Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR), Boiling Water Reactor (BWR), Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR), and Fast Neutron Reactor (FNR)). Considering the Light Water Reactor (LWR), which can either be PWR or FNR, the fission reaction is powered by Uranium 235 fuel.
The atom’s nucleus splits into smaller nuclei to release the energy required to heat water, creating steam that drives a turbine and the generator. The mechanical energy produced is converted to electrical energy that is transmitted.
Nigeria began exploring the possibilities of adopting nuclear energy to deliver the nation from its drowning state. This further led to the embracement of the idea of building a nuclear power plant in the country. Nigeria partnered with Russia and the Russia State Nuclear Corporation Rosatom to achieve this solution.
In 2009, the collaboration led to the establishment of the Russia-Nigerian Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) on National Atomic Energy. In July 2021, the committee was reconstituted to enable the development of the second and third nuclear power stations in Africa. The first is in South Africa.
The other two Nuclear Power Plants will be situated in Gerugu and Itu in the central and Sothern parts of the country, respectively. The project would cost about $20 billion.
Based on speculations, the residents of these places and concerned citizens fear the disaster that can result from improper construction and mismanagement of nuclear waste. Stakeholders are deliberating on the viability of nuclear energy and whether it is what we need to solve our power problem.
These are valid concerns; however, they are not tangible enough to averse the claim of its possibilities. In as much as proper environmental assessment is conducted before determining the location for the installation of the nuclear power plant, the concerns would no longer suffice.
Research is currently being carried out on the effective recycling of nuclear waste, reducing the harmful impact to the barest minimum. A fast nuclear reactor can be adopted to convert nuclear energy waste to electricity. This fast reactor technology has existed for over fifty years and is frequently augmented to meet the waste demand.
While exploring the conversion of nuclear waste back to electricity and other useful products, the country can adopt the nuclear waste management policies implemented in developed countries. If other nations are doing it, Nigeria can also do it following similar principles.
The project is in the bidding stage to indicate a breakthrough and progress with the implementation process. The Federal Government of Nigeria recently opened a bid to construct a nuclear plant that would generate 4000MW for the country. The nuclear power plant’s successful implementation would greatly benefit the two regions in Nigeria (Kogi and Akwa Ibom) and the nation at large.
Ayodeji Stephen (Electricity Hub)