Africa’s Energy Needs and the Potential Role of Nuclear Power

An increasing number of developing countries, including in Africa, are interested in adding nuclear power in their energy mix, the audience of an IAEA side event to the 59th IAEA General Conference heard today.

“Access to nuclear power, technically and financially, is no longer limited to advanced economies,” said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, at the event. “More than 30 Member States are preparing or considering nuclear power programmes. Most of them are developing countries. Around a third of them are in Africa.”

In sub-Saharan Africa, only about a third of the population have access to electricity and the number of people without access is on the rise, according to the World Energy Outlook 2014, published by the International Energy Agency. This presents a significant barrier to economic and social development. Governments across the continent are seeking ways to enhance their existing energy infrastructure, and develop new or diverse energy sources that are reliable, affordable and sustainable. 

Representatives from Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa – countries that are considering, embarking on or expanding a nuclear power programme – presented the status of their national programme planning and updates from Africa on recent activities related to nuclear power.

“2015 has been a busy year for African countries,” said Ochilo Ayacko, Executive Chairman of the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board, who chaired the side event on Africa’s Energy Needs and the Potential Role of Nuclear Power. “At the Third IAEA Regional Conference on Energy and Nuclear Power in Africa, held in Kenya in April, representatives from 35 African Member States discussed the need to undertake sustainable energy planning, and many expressed an interest in nuclear power.”

He also reported about a new initiative of ten African countries to form the African Network for Enhancing Nuclear Power Programme Development at an IAEA meeting in July 2015. The new network intends to build and strengthen national and regional capacity for planning, developing and managing the infrastructure for new and expanding nuclear power programmes, in cooperation with existing African regional networks and fora.

This year, the requests for IAEA Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) missions have been from African countries, Kenya, Nigeria, and Morocco, who are considering introducing nuclear power.

These review missions are part of the comprehensive package of assistance which the IAEA provides to help ensure that even the most challenging issues to introducing nuclear power can be successfully resolved.

Nigeria hosted an INIR mission in June 2015. Erepamo Osaisai, Chairman and CEO of the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission gave an overview of the mission’s recommendations and suggestions, emphasizing their benefit for the country as it moves forward on developing its infrastructure for nuclear power.

Kenya has not made a final decision on whether to embark on a nuclear power programme, but has been actively preparing for its nuclear infrastructure development. The country hosted an INIR Mission in August 2015. “We need affordable, reliable, competitive and safe electricity,” said Ochilo Ayacko, and added that the report from the INIR mission will give the government a good framework of the actions and issues requiring further development for a successful nuclear power programme.

Morocco is at the early stages of considering nuclear power, explained Khalid El Mediouri, Director General of the National Centre for Energy Sciences and Nuclear Techniques (CNESTEN). An INIR Mission is scheduled for October 2015 to assist the country in preparing for a knowledgeable decision of whether to add nuclear power to the country’s energy mix.

South Africa has safely operated the Koeberg nuclear power plant since 1984 and is considering expanding its nuclear power capacity. Zizamele Mbambo, Deputy Director General for Nuclear Energy at the South African Department of Energy, gave an update of the country’s preparations for the new nuclear build programme.

In closing the event, Director General Amano highlighted that the IAEA brings together countries with advanced nuclear power programmes and newcomer countries interested in nuclear power, to share knowledge and experience and avoid mistakes from the past. “I can assure you that we at the IAEA look forward to strengthening and deepening our cooperation with our African Member States in the field of nuclear power.”