Irony of the hungry farmer
‘Armed with machetes…and borrowed guns, two of three nations are fighting each other, what is to stop a nuclear holocaust should Africa be allowed to develop nuclear energy? First it will be to power their villages then they will weaponize and a nuclear catastrophe will follow…’ anonymous.
Yet nuclear energy may be the very power thrust that Africa needs to pull itself out of the bottomless pit of abject poverty. Its clean, its efficient and comparably cheap. It will by large cut the cost of doing business and powering African homes.
The cost of living in Africa is very high because the cost of production is also very high, why? Easy, the cost of energy is very high. Africa relies mainly on hydroelectric power stations that are very, very expensive to build and maintain.
As such, the cost of electricity is relatively high and in turn it forces producers to hike the price of their final goods, the end result is a continent that earns very little but spends so much.
Nuclear energy is a tried and proved lower cost power source and ironically most of the world’s uranium, the radioactive material used to develop nuclear energy, is mined in Africa. So again Africa is stuck in a proverbial cycle of poverty, producing cheap raw materials and buying back final products, at much higher prizes.
This is the irony of the starving farmer, a man dying of thirst yet he is surrounded by fresh water; Africa has nuclear raw material yet it suffers from lack of energy!
Should Africa move to nuclear energy, then it will be able to power its industry ambitions and produce at reasonably lower costs. This means that the cost of final products will be lower effectively lowering the cost of living. Goods at the shops, transport cost, electricity bills will all be much more affordable.
Lowering the cost of living while increasing productivity results in increased household income and improved wellbeing, in short it means getting out of poverty. This is achievable through development of nuclear energy, however, pundits argue;
Armed with machetes and borrowed guns, two of three nations are fighting each other, what is to stop a nuclear holocaust should Africa be allowed to develop nuclear energy. First it will be to power their villages then they will weaponize and a nuclear catastrophe will follow…
While that is a much contested opinion, but with a mile-long list of conditions, specifications and regulations laid before it, Africa is nowhere near to start utilizing its nuclear resources, or is it?
Africa’s nuclear age: Making a power move
It’s been six decades since the first nuclear weapons tests were conducted in Africa, and now many countries on the continent are exploring use of nuclear energy for socio-economic development.
At least seventeen African countries have expressed interest to use nuclear energy to power their nations and some already have active nuclear research and development programmes.
Several others countries are exploring the possibility of a nuclear build and as a matter of fact, countries like South Africa already have up and running nuclear programmes. SA in fact has an operational nuclear power plant, it is not the only one, at least not for long.
Egypt is well on its wat to become the second country on the continent with a nuclear power plant and already, the construction of four nuclear reactors is under way. According to Noel Stott, Senior Researcher at the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre other countries hot on the heels are Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria.
So now experts argue the need to promote knowledge and awareness around the peaceful use of nuclear energy in Africa. To do so, there is need to strengthen the various organs and agencies that have been tasked the responsibility of developing nuclear programmes for their countries.
That is on one hand, on the other, there is need to improve national legislations on nuclear safety and security. So then, it is no longer a matter of whether Africa is ready to adopt nuclear energy programmes but rather supporting the continent to harness nuclear power to achieve its development goals.
Africa is not asking for permission to use its nuclear resources, but it accepts and abides by the global regulations of developing nuclear programmes. ‘According to Article IV of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Africa has the right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology.’
As mentioned, most African countries already have the natural resources required for nuclear energy, and they could be used to achieve developmental objectives in the African Union’s long-term vision Agenda 2063 and the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as endorsed by the United Nations.
However, this is where the mile long list of regulations come to play, effectively keeping Africa at bay from nuclear use. There is the matter of developing nuclear infrastructure, creating necessary laws and regulations, training personnel and establishing a regulator.
‘All these hurdles must be overcome prior to getting a licence and starting construction of nuclear plants and reactors. Countries interested in nuclear energy firstly need to ensure the safe and secure handling of nuclear materials, plants, reactors and waste disposal.’
Makes sense and Africa agrees, the Executive Secretary of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE), Mr. Messaoud Baaliouamer, emphasizes the need to cultivate a safety culture in countries seeking to pursue nuclear energy us at any and all levels.
A safety culture not only among the authorities that is to say the national regulatory bodies but also among the general population. That is for the common man to also be aware of the dangers and merits of nuclear use.
“It is also important not to see nuclear technology as the only solution to development and to consider the costs involved,” the official argues, rather watering down Africa’s ambition on the case.
His South African counterpart argues differently. Knox Msebenzi, the Managing Director of the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa, is all for adding nuclear energy to a country’s energy mix.
He nonetheless urges for African states seeking nuclear programmes to ensure that they pay competitive interest rates to make these projects cost-efficient. Here is another tricky part for Africa, it apparently takes 20 to 25 years to start reaping the profitable outcomes of a nuclear programme, that is ‘…to pay off loans that will be needed to build nuclear power plants,’ power plants that have a lifespan of only 50 to 60 years.