By Jacob Okwii
The Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Government of Uganda and that of Russia provides a framework for enhancing Uganda’s research capability and development of peaceful power and non-power application of nuclear energy.
“The MoU with Russia is meant to draft a workable framework that will guide the Government of Uganda in the process of building power plants. It is still in its initial stages but we believe that soon we will sign a contract agreement with them to kick start the works,” Sarah Nafuna Mudoko, head of the Nuclear Energy Unit and National Liaison Officer, International Atomic Energy Agency Cooperation (IAEA) at the Ministry of Energy & Mineral Development revealed to The Infrastructure Magazine.
The MoU provides a framework for cooperation between the two countries. It is aimed at supporting Uganda to generate and ensure a peaceful application of nuclear energy for research, agriculture, health and electricity to address the problem of insufficient power supply in Uganda.
On the question of the country’s readiness with human resource to handle nuclear energy Mudoko said, “Government is training human resource from the regulator to the operator. They are equipped with basic skills and knowledge required in the development of Nuclear Energy. We are training people in the best Universities in the world”.
This is one of the measures to deal with accidents that could be caused by mismanagement. Besides, Ministry of Energy officials are also quick to emphasize that the government is prioritizing use of technologies from countries whose works have been tested and certified safe, from many years of use.
Globally, nuclear energy is widely used-albeit controversially in some instances-as a source of electricity to power industry. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear energy supplied 11 per cent of global electricity; this number rising to 21 per cent in the OECD countries.
The IAEA also says that in 2017 over 30 countries worldwide operated 449 nuclear reactors for electricity generation and a further 60 nuclear plants were under construction in 15 countries. This is an indication that many countries in the world are increasingly taking to nuclear energy to meet their electricity needs. In 2016, 13 countries relied on nuclear energy to supply at least one quarter of their total electricity.
France is known to be the highest user of nuclear energy for electricity generation meeting 76.9 per cent of her needs from nuclear energy. Other big users include: Slovakia (56.5 per cent), Hungary (53.5 per cent), Ukraine (49.5 per cent), among others. In Africa, South Africa is the only country already operating nuclear power plant, with this type of energy contributing 6.2 per cent of that coungtry’s electricity.
African countries like Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Namibia, and Nigeria are already in the process to construct nuclear plants. Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia, and Uganda have plans in the works to construct plants in the next few years.
Huge volumes of electricity notwithstanding, nuclear plants have a downside to them. The construction process comes with huge costs that the intending countries have to endure to build the plants. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa recently reported that nuclear generated electricity is more expensive than electricity generated by new coal plants, solar, photovoltaic panels and wind. The Council said in a report that a 1000MW+ reactor at least costs US$ 6billion.