Nuclear energy in Africa

Koeberg nuclear power station near Cape Town. Credit: Flickr/paulscott56

Africa needs nuclear energy – but the kind of small reactors that would suit the continent is not currently on offer, the meeting heard this morning.

Rob Adam from the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation said that top of the range reactors provide ten to a hundred times the kind of power output that would be suitable in Africa.

“In Kenya, the overall size of the grid is 2,000 megawatts,” he said.  “If you have a reactor that provides 1,600 megawatts and you take it down for maintenance, you take Kenya down. 10-100 megawatts is the right size.”

This size reactor is currently not on the market, but modified versions of the reactors used in nuclear-powered submarines could fit the bill, he said. Their military origin pose a challenge to their commercial adoption, however.

Nuclear power is not appropriate for all African countries, Adam added. South Africa is the only African country with a nuclear power plant. Adam suggested that nuclear might make sense in Algeria, Egypt, Namibia and Nigeria. Namibia is one of the continent’s main uranium producers and Nigeria is its second biggest energy consumer.

Interestingly, Adam did not mention Sudan – a country which recently voiced huge nuclear ambitions – in his list of countries where nuclear is an option.

Sudan’s nuclear ambitions were not credible, he told me later. “Nobody would sell a reactor to them.”

Linda Nordling, SciDev.Net columnist

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