AFRICA - Facing the energy crisis, Uganda and Nigeria attempt to use their own uranium reserves to generate electricity

Friday, 25 April 2008

Rome (Agenzia Fides) - From uranium suppliers to nuclear energy manufacturers. This is the transformation being attempted by Uganda and Nigeria, the latter being one of the most important uranium providers in the world. It is a process that will be a few years’ long and will need substantial economic investments and international technical support, but one which the African nations are very excited about, as it is a chance to remedy the lack of electricity that is affecting various regions of the continent. According to the Energy and Mineral Development Minister of Uganda, Daudi Migereko, “with the continual increase in energy demand, it seems that nuclear energy will play an important role in supplying energy. Uganda has significant uranium reserve that could be used for producing energy.”
Uganda is facing a serious electricity crisis, due to the lack of investments and the decrease in production at the hydro-electric power plant in Jinja, as a result of the lowered water levels in Lake Victoria. The plant’s production has gone from 380 megawatts to 135, forcing the national electric company to use diesel-powered generators in order to produce another 100 megawatts; an unacceptable cost, in the long run, seeing as the cost of fuel continues to rise. In order to pay the energy bill, the government has had to raise 56.5 million dollars, 40 million of which will be spent on covering the costs of thermal power stations.
The potential of the hydro-electric sector and other renewable energy sources of Uganda is 530 megawatts, enough for half of the country’s 5 million inhabitants, who must be connected to the national network. There is also the demand that comes from the industry and from other institutions. 90% of Ugandans do not have access to electricity.
In order to create its own nuclear subsidiary, Uganda must establish an adequate legislation, find external investors, and build a work force with the necessary expertise. They are currently only 10 nuclear experts in the country.
Among the African nations that are considering the use of nuclear energy are: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Namibia, and Nigeria (see Fides 27/7/2007). Nigeria has also expressed its intention to use its own local uranium resources. “Nigeria is the world’s third-largest uranium producer. We have decided to increase prices for the French companies that purchase from us, because we want to invest more in our country. We will build nuclear plants in our country in order to sell energy at a low cost to other African nations,” said Mogamed Ben Omar, Communications Minister of Nigeria, in a conference held at the Rome-based ISIAO (Italian Institute for Africa and the East). (LM) (Agenzia Fides 25/4/2008; righe 34, parole 438)