Nuclear Reactor

Tanzania and Uganda, only a few months after inking similar deals with Kenya, Zambia, Ghana and Nigeria, signalling Russia’s intention to become Africa’s key partner in nuclear development.

The agency, Rosatom, said it was planning to start developing nuclear energy in Tanzania following discovery of uranium and because of the mining activities in southern Tanzania.

In Uganda, the agency seeks to pass on expertise in nuclear technology as the country works towards building its first nuclear power plant by 2034.

While meeting Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Viktor Polikarpov, Rosatom’s regional vice-president of sub-Saharan Africa, said the firm would provide professional training in nuclear infrastructure development, staff training, public acceptance, nuclear medicine, agriculture.

According to the AF-Consult Switzerland report on Uganda’s nuclear ambitions, the country will require to invest $26 billion to have an installed capacity of 4300 MW from nuclear energy by 2040.

Uganda’s parliament approved the principles and areas of the peaceful use of nuclear power in 2002 and passed the Atomic Energy Act establishing the Atomic Energy Council, the national regulator, and the Nuclear Energy Unit forming part of the Ministry of Energy in 2008.

In Tanzania, Andre Shutov, the vice president of Uranium One — a subsidiary of Rosatom — said Rosatom would build a nuclear power research reactor as the first stage to introducing nuclear energy development in Tanzania.

“Production of uranium will be our main goal, and the first production will be made in 2018, with expectations to generate revenues for the company and Tanzania. We cannot make any wrong step as we expect to reach production step in two to three years’ time,” Mr Shutov said.

Nuclear dreams

Uranium One has already been granted a permit by the Tanzania government to mine and extract uranium in Mkuju River within Selous Game Reserve.

Tanzania is looking at having a plant by 2025 and will require at least $4 billion to actualise its nuclear dreams.

The Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board says the country will need at least $20 million to put up its 4,000MW plants, which it hopes to be operational by 2023. Rosatom signed an MoU with Kenya that would see it participate in the nuclear plant project, including the construction of a new power station.

The two countries also agreed to partner on the design, construction and operation of nuclear energy and research reactors; production and use of radioisotopes in medicine, and the agriculture sector, and the handling of radioactive waste.

But even as the region embarks on nuclear energy development, environmentalists are concerned about the handling of the radioactive nuclear waste. They warn of the risk of the harmful waste leaking into the public domain.

For instance, uranium mining in southern Tanzania has been in the spotlight by wildlife conservation groups worried over negative economic consequences and health risks to both the wildlife and residents neighbouring Tanzania’s largest wildlife park, Selous Game Reserve. This is the largest wildlife conserved area in Africa, and has large numbers of elephants, black rhinos, cheetahs, giraffes, hippos, and crocodiles. It is relatively undisturbed by humans.

Contaminants cannot be controlled

The World Wildlife Fund has already expressed worry over mining and extraction of uranium in the reserve, saying mining and industrial activities being carried in Mkuju River could compromise long-term economic and health risks to the people and the economy of Tanzania at large.

“This could be a major opportunity for the current administration in Tanzania to make a decision that will have far reaching legacy,” said Amani Ngusaru, Country Director of WWF-Tanzania.

According to the memorandum of understanding seen by The EastAfrican, the uranium mining company will carry out significant anti-poaching initiatives ranging from game scouts uniforms, equipment and vehicles, specialised training in bushcraft, communications, safety, navigation, and counter-poaching tactics.

Extractive and Energy expert with WWF Tanzania Brown Namgera told The EastAfrican that risks of spreading of leaching liquid outside of the uranium deposit, involving subsequent groundwater contamination cannot be controlled.

“Contaminants that are mobile under chemically reducing conditions, such as radium cannot be controlled”, Mr Namgera said.