Rising Demand for Electricity Causes Several African Countries to Take a Step Toward Nuclear Energy

By Ritvik Dutta

The Camden Power Station in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa currently produces around 5% of South Africa’s electricity production. Rising demands for energy in the continent of Africa have led to the recent swing of momentum towards using cleaner alternatives. A recent analysis conducted by the IAEA, an organization under the UN General Assembly that oversees the worldwide usage of nuclear energy by inhibiting malicious intents and promoting safe usage, suggests that African nations are starting to consider nuclear power as a possible source of energy.

As of now, only one of the fifty-four African countries has a commercial-use nuclear power plant: South Africa. That number is slated to change with countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Sudan, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, and Egypt discussing and assessing their readiness and steps to implement this surrogate form of energy. Countries that are less prepared, such as Algeria, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia are open to the possibility and their leaders are currently considering their possible options.

This sudden interest in nuclear energy was sparked due to a wide variety of reasons with the main being that most of the water in the sub-Saharan hydroelectric dams has started to dry up. Most South African countries are highly dependent on this electricity generated by these dams. The situation has become so dire that Zimbabwe has had to shed its power load. Learning from this situation, many African countries are looking to establish the security of power supply by looking to other sources.

Currently, one in three Africans lacks access to electricity, a rather sizable 600 million Africans. Members of an African organization named Power for All like Benson Kibiti believe that Africa should pursue off-grid solar energy, and that nuclear energy proves to be an expensive source. Africa is the second poorest continent measured by GDP per capita, second only to Antarctica. Yet despite this, African countries seem to have garnered enough interest to “embrace nuclear science in general,” as noted by Colin Namalambo in an interview with the Thomas Reuters Foundation. Notably, however, is the large interest that China and Russia have shown in the financing of these nuclear power plants.

The investment in this new form of renewable energy would engender a wide plethora of rules and cooperation between the estranged African nations. They would have to work together to solve financial and ethical issues and forge an agreement with one another and the IAEA to make sure that the safety of each country is held in check. Undoubtedly, the lack of coordination between the African nations poses a key challenge for the future.