By Kingsley Okoye
The Nigerian Government has demonstrated commitment to introduce nuclear power into its energy mix to boost electricity generation in the country.
Mr Dmitry Shornikov, an expert and Chief Executive Officer, Russian State Nuclear Energy Corporation (ROSATOM), said this in an interview text emailed to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Tuesday.
According him, Nigeria is most certainly following all the correct steps required to be ready for nuclear power production.
“The Nigerian Government has shown firm commitment to introduce nuclear power into its energy mix.
“As part of the government’s programme to deploy nuclear power plants for electricity generation in the country, the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission was activated in April 2006.
“One of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidelines for newcomer countries envisages assistance to adapt national energy grids for special requirements of reliability and safety.
“If a country that wants to develop nuclear programme does not have adequate grid infrastructure, it should follow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidelines in order to rectify this.
“In the summer of 2015, the IAEA conducted two missions to Nigeria in support of its nuclear programme.
“These missions found that Nigeria’s emergency preparedness and response framework was consistent with IAEA safety standards, and that the country needed to further refine its policies and strengthen capacities on the management on nuclear initiatives.”
NAN recalls that Nigeria started developing its peaceful nuclear programme a decade ago and ROSATOM has been working with Nigeria for roughly half of this time.
A great deal has already been done in terms of the legal framework and educating specialists, both of which are part of the nuclear infrastructure development programme.
The two countries started their partnership in nuclear power development in 2009, by executing an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the field of the peaceful usage of nuclear technologies.
On Oct. 30, 2017, Russia and Nigeria signed project development agreements on construction and operation of a Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) and a Research Centre housing a multi-purpose nuclear research reactor on the territory of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The parties also signed a roadmap for cooperation in the field of peaceful usage of nuclear technologies.
Dmitry, overseeing Central and Southern Africa of ROSATOM, said it was important for Nigeria to harness all available energy mix, including nuclear to improve its power generation, given the huge demand for electricity supply in the country.
“Today, Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa, however, its power sector is performing far below the level of an economy of this magnitude.
“Over half of the population has no access to grid-connected electricity and those who are connected to the grid suffer extensive power outages.
“Nigeria’s current installed capacity is estimated at around 12,500 MW, only half of this is operational, and only about 5,000 MW reaches the grid.
“Restricted output has been blamed on gas supply problems, water shortages, grid constraints and breakdowns.
“Existing energy mix in Nigeria is made up mostly of hydro and gas turbine power plants and will certainly benefit from the addition of sustainable base load generation.
“There are three important factors that should be considered when designing the optimum energy mix, this include economics, security of supply and environmental impact.
“Nuclear is one of the only power sources that is capable of producing all the three factors and is, therefore, crucial to help balance any energy mix,” Dmitry explained.
He said ROSATOM was committed to assisting Nigeria archive its nuclear energy production ambition.
Dmitry, however, said skills development was a key requirement in Nigeria getting ready for the development and running of nuclear energy plants, adding that ROSATOM was willing to further assist in developing the needed skills.
“Since 2010, ROSATOM has been running a project on training staff for partner countries.
“The project is aimed at supporting the partner country in creating an integrated system for training qualified specialists for the nuclear power industry.
“From highly professional construction, installation and operating staff to providing the most modern specialised university education and retraining of executives, both for nuclear power and national regulatory authorities in the nuclear sphere.
He disclosed that 17 students from Nigeria were presently studying in Russia, adding that Nigeria was part of special ROSATOM’s bursary programme on free education for talented students.
According to him, ROSATOM will give its best to support development of science in Nigeria which remains a veritable key to further develop the country.