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Uganda looks to nuclear energyPublish Date: Mar 15, 2009
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By Ibrahim Kasita
in Berlin, Germany

AN advisory board to steer the uranium development strategy for Uganda has been formed, paving way for the creation of the national nuclear electrical power generation programme, IBI Corporation, a Canadian mining and investment company, announced last week.

Joshua Tuhumwire, the commissioner in the department of geological survey and mines in the energy ministry, Paul Sherwen, the chairman of Uganda Chamber of Mines and Elly Karuhanga, a director at IBI Corporation are the board members.

Others are Paul Harricks, a partner in Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, A J Coffman, the president of Far Country Management Services Inc and James Misener, the president of Paterson, Grant & Watson, Geophysical.

The programme consultants include Gary Fitchett, John Alton, and Dennis Mellersh, all premier managers in IBI Corporation.

“The board will be involved in preparing and presenting a proposal for national energy programme for Uganda,” IBI Corporation said in a statement.
The formation of the advisory board follows a recent meeting between President Yoweri Museveni and Gary Fitchett, the IBI’s chief in Kampala.

During this meeting, Museveni requested the national energy programme for Uganda proposals.
Fitchett outlined his company’s conceptual uranium development strategy to the President.

IBI’s uranium development strategy for Uganda views the country’s potential uranium resources as a strategic mineral that should be used for the benefit of Ugandans through the development of a national nuclear electrical power generation programme.

The country is facing power supply shortage that started in the late 1990’s due to a combination of low investment in the energy sector and low hydropower generation as Lake Victoria water levels, which feed the two hydropower facilities in Jinja, declined drastically, hurting on the economy.

Electricity generation fell to 100 megawatts from the installed capacity of 380 megawatts, forcing the Government to procure diesel-powered generators.

The future economic progress will depend to a large extent on its ability to foster business and industrial development through the provision of adequate and competitively priced electrical power.

A new 250 megawatt hydropower dam is under construction at Bujagali on the Nile, with at least two other dams expected over the next decade to meet future demand. But energy analysts predict that even with full utilisation of the potential resources suitable for hydroelectric power generation, the country would still face an electrical power shortfall.

To mitigate the shortage, IBI is proposing a nuclear energy strategy for electrical power generation using potential uranium resources.

The strategy proposes that IBI and the Government form a private sector/public sector partnership under which the firm would explore for and develop land with potential viable uranium resources to increase electricity production.
IBI holds about 2,000 square kilometres of land in Uganda, on which it has commenced exploration.

Uranium can also be used in the treatment of cancer patients, diagnostic procedures including organ scans, crop improvement through integrated nutrient management, level gauging in soft-drinks firms and assessing geothermal resources like those in Katwe and Kibiro in the Western Rift Valley.

The strategy comes at a time when even environmentally-conscious countries like Sweden, Finland, the UK and Germany are changing their attitude to nuclear power, and now regard it as a potential solution to concerns over carbondioxide emissions, high fossil fuel prices and dependence on imported energy sources.

Several African nations, including Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Namibia and Nigeria, are considering nuclear power as an alternative to hydropower.

However, Uganda cannot mine its uranium resources until it has comprehensive laws in place that institute the required safeguards.
Another hurdle is the lack of skilled manpower in the sector, with less than a dozen personnel available to roll out the project.

To move forward, Atomic Bill was passed into law precipitating the setting up of regulatory framework with technical assistance from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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