Eleven African countries are considering building nuclear power plants over the next 14 years to overcome the continent’s extreme electricity shortage.
Outside South Africa, the entire installed generation capacity of Sub-Saharan Africa was now just 28 GW – equivalent to that of Argentina – Anton Khlopkov, director of the Centre for Energy and Security Studies in Moscow said Thursday.
He was speaking at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria in a seminar about prospects for Russian nuclear cooperation with Africa.
He said that only 24% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa now had access to electricity and even where electricity was connected, it was unreliable. African manufacturing enterprises experienced power outages on an average of 56 days a year.
“As a result, firms lose 6% of sales revenue. Where back-up generation is limited, losses can be as high as 20%,” he said.
Sub-Saharan electricity tariffs were also high, Khlopkov said. Tariffs ranged between 4 to 8 US cents per kilowatt hour in most developing countries, compared to an average of 13 cents in sub-Saharan Africa.
In countries which relied on diesel generators, tariffs were even higher, he said. Because of poor reliability, many firms operated their own diesel generators which increased electricity costs two to three times.
Khlopkov said before the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan five years ago, more than 60 countries worldwide were considering constructing nuclear power plants. Even today, over 45 countries were still actively considering embarking on nuclear power programmes.
In Africa these were Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Tunisia and Uganda. So far, in Africa, only South Africa was producing nuclear power, with its two reactors at Koeberg contributing 5% of the country’s energy mix.
But there were also five nuclear research reactors in Africa – two in Algeria and one each in Egypt, Morocco and South Africa. There were also two other nuclear research installations, in Nigeria and Libya.
Four African countries also produced uranium – Malawi, Namibia, Niger and South Africa – contributing 15% of global production in 2014.
Among the biggest ambitions for constructing nuclear power plants were Algeria’s plans to build two reactors to produce 2 400 MW by 2030; Egypt’s to build four reactors, producing 4 800 MW by 2030, Ghana’s to build one reactor producing 1 000 MW by 2025, Kenya’s plans to build four reactors producing 4 000 MW by 2033, Morocco’s to build its first reactor by 2030, Nigeria’s plans to build four reactors, producing 4 000 MW by 2027 and South Africa’s to add six to eight new reactors, producing an extra 9 600 MW by 2030.
Khlopkov said Russia was the biggest exporters of nuclear technology in the world, constructing 25% of nuclear power plants currently, converting 25% and enriching 45% of uranium, providing 17% of nuclear fuel and reprocessing 10% of spent nuclear fuel.
The export sales of the state nuclear corporation Rosatom in 2015 were $6.4-billion and its foreign orders up to 2030 totalled $110-billion.
In Africa, Russia was currently operating the Mkuju River uranium mine development project in Tanzania, was supplying about 40% of the uranium fuel for South Africa’s Koeberg reactors and was conducting negotiations for building nuclear power plants with South Africa, Algeria, Egypt and Morocco.
Experts at the seminar who could not be quoted, estimated that probably only 25% of the nuclear power plants which African countries were planning would be built by 2030. That was about the global average.
They predicted that at least two of the six to eight nuclear power plants which South Africa envisaged, would be among those built by 2030 – but only if public opinion did not turn against the nuclear plans and the security situation in the country did not deteriorate.