Our nuclear energy option a bad deal

Tuesday January 07 2020

In September 2019, Uganda signed an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with Russia to build capacity to exploit nuclear technology for energy, medical and other peaceful purposes (the definitions for peaceful can be looked at another day). The government selected Buyende, Nakasongola, Mubende, Lamwo and Kiruhura districts as the potential sites for nuclear power stations.
State minister for Energy Simon D’Ujanga attributes the selection of these districts to the presence of water bodies nearby, As we are obsessed with nuclear energy, all seven of Germany’s nuclear power plants are slated to close by 2022, but where will the European country safely bury nearly 28,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste that will stay there for the next million years, as CNN reported? The decision to close the country’s nuclear plants came after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in March 2011. Japan is still struggling to cool and contain the nuclear waste from the plant, which is part of the reason Germany is wrestling with the puzzle of where to offload nearly 2,000 containers of nuclear waste.
It needs to find a repository that “offers the best possible safety and security for a period of a million years,” said Germany’s Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. “We need to find a way to tell them ‘curiosity is not good here,’” said Prof Schreurs. She added that the site must be “very, very stable. It can’t have earthquakes, it can’t have any signs of water flow, and it can’t be very porous rock.”
According to the summary of nuclear generation plan from an AF-Consult Switzerland Limited report, the high case scenario for Uganda’s nuclear would involve the setting up of a two-unit nuclear power plant of an installed capacity of 2,300 megawatts (MW). In this scenario, the plant would be commissioned in 2028. Putting up two units with an installed capacity of 2,000MW and the first unit of these two would be commissioned in 2031.The low case scenario would involve the setting up of a one-unit, 1, 000MW nuclear power station, and commissioned in 2034. The summary said the capital expenditure for Uganda’s nuclear power programme 2020–2040 would be about Shs37.2 trillion for the best case scenario. For the low case scenario, the capital expenditure would be Shs18.6 trillion.
The financing of this project will most likely be oil money which is anticipated at $3.6b ( about Shs13.6 trillion) annually from oil and gas. Oil will last for 25 years, however, if the current and future generation is to benefit, we need to stop looking at investments that don’t worsen the already damaged environment and worsening climate change.
If the superpower with experience, money and technology is closing who are we to venture into this risky and dangerous energy source?
Government has ignored to look at the smart and clean options of renewable energy generation for Uganda. Solar energy, for instance, is cheap, safe and clean, we have all year round good weather. Noor complex for example, located in Sahara desert (Morocco) will produce 580 MW when completed in 2020, and aims to produce enough energy to power over one million homes by the end of the year and reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 760,000 tonnes per year. This is slightly below what Uganda consumes at peak power demand by only 45mw. Noor only cost $625m.
Sam Mucunguzi,
Coordinator, Citizens’ Concern Africa