Uganda hosts African Nuclear Business Platform

by Business Times
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The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and the Nuclear Business Platform will host the Africa Nuclear Business Platform on March 14-17,2023 at Speke Resort Munyonyoin Kampala.

According to the Energy Minster Dr Ruth Nankabirwa, over 300 stakeholders from the international nuclear cmmunity are expected to converge.

“AFNBP 2023 will bring togethr key stakeholders pursuing nuclear energy implementation to undersatand and discuss nuclear energy developments in Africa and explore areas of strategics collaborations to move Uganda and African countries’ nuclear industry forward,” she told journalists on Thursday, March 9,2023.

She noted that the conference presents an excellent oppornunity to Uganda to find suitable approaches to callenges in the nuclear industry.

Seven subharan African countries, including Uganda have committed to having nuclear energy as part of their energy mix between 2030 to 2037.

“All these countries have developed national positions on having nuclear energy and have engaged with the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) to assist in their nuclear power programs,” said Nankabirwa.

Vision 2040 and the subsequent National Development Plans identify electricity as modern energy to shift the country from a peasantry to an industrialised and predominantly urban society.

“Electricity has been identified as a critical driver of the socio-economic transformation of a nation. In that regard, Uganda embarked on diversifying the electricity generation mix to address the electricity crisis of 2005, predominantly hydropower, to develop all the available generation potential,” she said.

Studies conducted in the energy sector indicate that electricity generation from hydro, biomass, geothemal and peat potential if fully developed cannot meet Uganda’s vision 2040 target.

Nankabirwa however revealed that Uganda is making firm steps to integrate nuclear energy into the electricity generation mix to ensure ensure energy security and provide sufficient electricity for industrialisation.

“In addition, the government has identified nuclear as part of Uganda’s energy transition plan. It continues to invest in developing the requisite infrastructure, including human capital development in specialised areas to support the early development of nuclear power,” she noted.

In 2021, Uganda hosted the IAEA Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review Mission(INIR Phase1) to evaluate the status of nuclear infrastructure development. The experts made reccomendations and suggestions to the Uganda Nuclear Power Programm and identified good practices in national position, stakeholder involvement and local industrial invovlevment.

Now Nnakabirwa said Uganda has taken steps towards implementing the INIR reccendations and suggestions to support the development of its nuclear power programme.

“Among these is the preparation for the ammendment of the Atomic Energy Act, 2008, to stregthen the legal regime for the nuclear safety, security, safeguards for nuclear material, civil nuclear liability and maintaining the nuclear institutional framework,” she noted.

Sources at the Atomic Energy Council told URN that a number of Ugandans employed at the council have been sent abroad for training in nuclear power technology, regulation, and oversight as part of the preparation for atomic or nuclear energy.

“Those people are going to make the leadership team in effectively regulating our nuclear power program in the country,” said a source who asked for anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to journalists.

Uganda hosts Africa Nuclear Business Platform 2023 (AFNBP 2023) amidst growing debate on whether African countries can afford the cost of conventional nuclear reactors like the one Uganda is planning to put up. There are also suggestions that Africa should opt for small nuclear reactors (SMR) instead of conventional reactor technology mainly being supplied and designed by Russia and China.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has raised concern about whether it can deliver new nuclear reactors to countries where they are needed on time. About 63% of today’s nuclear-generating capacity comes from plants that are more than 30 years old. Many were built in the aftermath of the 1970s oil shocks.

Executive Secretary African Commission on Nuclear Energy, Enobot Agboraw recently told a virtual briefing that the continent is open to any technology provided it is cost-effective.

He disagreed whether assertions that Small nuclear reactors are inferior and meant for Africa.

“Everybody has talked about Small modular reactors. Among these reactors are those that have features that address non-proliferation concerns. That uses to be a worry when one spoke about African countries acquiring the traditional types of nuclear reactors,” said Enobot Agboraw.

“I think the time is now and right for Africa to enter the nuclear energy arena. In terms of having nuclear power as a routine source of energy in Africa,” he said. The International Energy Agency(IEA) called for a 40% reduction in construction costs to enable countries to take up nuclear as part of their energy mix. Nuclear is the second low-emission source of electricity after hydroelectricity.

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