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Considerations for embarking on a Nuclear Power Programme in Africa

Jun 19, 2009


The steadily increasing energy requirements for the socio-economic development of the Africa region, coupled with ever volatile prices of fossil energy resources, continues to be a major challenge for the majority of the countries, particularly the ones with emerging economies. In the first place, many of these countries do not have sufficient natural energy resources to respond to the steadily increasing energy demand, nor have they the required knowledge, skilled human resources and reliable data that would enable them to envisage other viable options.

In recent years there have been rising expectations in the world regarding the role of nuclear power as a reliable source of electricity generation. The renewed interest in nuclear power has increased the prospects of considering this option in national energy mixes to ensure access to affordable energy for sustainable development.

The IAEA provides impartial advice and assists its Member States in analysing their options and choosing the best energy mix to ensure that informed and knowledgeable decisions are taken by the Member States and that the extent of the effort required to build up the nuclear power infrastructure is recognized and appreciated. Recently, the Agency issued a policy paper titled ‘Considerations to Launch a Nuclear Power Programme’, and a guidance document titled ‘Milestones in the Development of National Nuclear Infrastructure’. Both papers identify different phases and milestones to be achieved in the preparation of a nuclear infrastructure and are now guiding along with other tools Member States in the self-assessment of their national infrastructure.

Increasing energy demand, concerns over climate change and dependence on overseas supplies of fossil fuels have prompted several African Member States to seek the IAEA’s assistance in exploring nuclear power as an option for addressing these concerns. In particular, they wish to better understand the key aspects of the planning of a nuclear power programme, including energy assessment, with special emphasis on the requirements in terms of the legal and regulatory framework, human resources, optimal siting conditions, safety, and public acceptance.

The African regional Conference on “Considerations for Embarking on Nuclear Power Programme” was held 7-8 June 2009 in Cairo, Egypt, in conjunction with two Regional Technical Cooperation Project Coordination Meetings (RAF/0/028 - Strengthening Planning Capabilities for Sustainable Energy Development (AFRA VI-1), and RAF/0/033 - Increasing Awareness at Decision Making Level about the Requirements and Challenges Related to the Feasibility of a Nuclear Power Programme). The Conference was organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency in cooperation with the Government of Egypt, through the Nuclear Power Plants Authority. The Conference was opened by H. E. Dr. Hassan Younis, Minister of Ministry of Electricity and Energy of Egypt. Dr. Moctar O. Yedaly, Representative of the African Union Commission (AUC) and Dr. Hussein Elhag, Executive Director of the African Energy Commission (AFREC) participated in this event which was attended by over 60 high ranking officials, experts and counterparts from the following African countries (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tunisia, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). Keynote speakers were from the AUC, AFREC, France, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Tunisia, and the United States of America.

This regional conference is one of the components of the IAEA assistance to the African Member States which aims at increasing awareness at decision making level about the requirements, pre-requisites, and other legal, financial and managerial obligations which are associated with the decision to embark on a nuclear power programme. Careful planning in the early stages of a programme across a wide range of national infrastructure issues can help instill confidence in the country’s ability to legislate, regulate, construct and safely and further securely operate a nuclear power plant (NPP).

The Conference provided a forum to debate openly regional priorities and concerns related to nuclear power, including the requirements for conducting comprehensive studies to establish the need for and to explore the feasibility of nuclear power, and promoting regional cooperation and common understanding on major issues related to nuclear power, such as human and financial resources, comprehensive legal and regulatory frameworks, site selection, selection of appropriate nuclear power technologies, grid appropriateness, nuclear fuel cycle, radioactive waste management, stakeholder involvement and public communication.. It also offered an opportunity for the countries considering the potential benefits of introducing nuclear power in their national energy mix to deepen their thinking about their own national conditions, environment and strategies for a viable nuclear power option.

The Conference comprised of 3 technical sessions and 2 panel discussions, and a total of 19 presentations were made covering various aspects of assessment of energy systems, planning for nuclear power and establishment of requisite infrastructural, institutional and regulatory frameworks, the role of the regional organizations, medium and long term perspectives for nuclear power in Africa, taking into consideration of the current and future technologies, fuel supply, nuclear safety and security, transfer of technology, financial and industrial capacity and radioactive waste management and as well as international instruments in the field.

The sessions and panel discussions of the Conference revealed the following messages:

1. The nuclear power option is necessary for Africa to meet its long term energy demand.

2. African nations recognize that they can develop local capacities to use IAEA’s analytical tools and methodologies to comprehensively analyze their future energy paths for sustainable energy development. The reports of the energy assessments of respective countries to be made available to other African countries.

3. African nations embarking on nuclear power could develop the nuclear power strategies with the support of the Agency in line with provisions with the Agency’s guidance documents.

4. The establishment of institutional and regulatory frameworks, through appropriate enactments, is a necessary precondition for viable nuclear power programme.

5. The African Union Commission and the African Energy Commission in collaboration with AFRA platform of the IAEA are expected to convene appropriate meetings of all stakeholders to facilitate the nuclear power programmes of African nations including establishment of partnerships to make African countries move closer to attaining the Millennium Development Goals.

6. Regional international and multinational cooperation will facilitate the development of infrastructure and capacity building of human resources across the various regions and countries of Africa. This should include partnerships for sharing resources across various countries.

7. The development of national nuclear safety culture and general public acceptability will be promoted by the methodology of concept of introducing the nuclear programmes in forms to be easily understood by policy makers and general public.

Responsible/Contact: Department of Technical Cooperation | Last update: 10 Apr, 2015

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