By Moses Walubiri
A nuclear expert working with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Alain Jorge Cardoso has urged the Ugandan government to press ahead with its plans to tap into its nuclear energy potential, extolling the capacity of nuclear energy to meet Uganda’s galloping energy demands.
Uganda’s energy demands, according to Ministry of Energy Permanent Secretary, Kabagambe Kalisa, is growing at an annual rate of 15 per cent – a rate minister of state for energy, Simon D’Ujanga, contends the country’s total hydro energy potential will not be able to meet in the next 15 years.
“It’s really unacceptable that in Africa, only one country – South Africa – has a functioning nuclear reactor,” Cardoso said Monday during a meeting bringing together a host of African countries that are seriously considering putting nuclear energy on their power grids.
Held under the auspices of IAEA, the two-day workshop is tailored to appraising ways of IAEA assistance to the African region in what Cardoso labeled “transferring nuclear technology to Africa.”
“This recap meeting is aimed at helping African countries to make smart choices about nuclear energy,” Cardoso said.
When asked whether African countries have the financial wherewithal to invest in nuclear energy, Cardoso told New Vision that African countries can strike investment partnerships with other developed countries with such technology.
“Russia for example has expressed a willingness to build nuclear plants in developing countries as long as it gets commitment from respective governments to purchase the power generated,” Cardoso said.
Earlier, D’Ujanga had warned that Uganda risks failing to meet its energy demands if it fails to plan to bring on board alternative energy sources, including nuclear power.
“We also note that even after the Fukushima nuclear accident, several countries in the African region have remained interested in exploring nuclear power as an option for addressing energy gaps and sustaining emerging economies and Uganda is one of these countries,” D’Ujanga said.
In March 2011, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake in Japan spawned a monster Tsunami that grossly incapacitated the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant.
The resultant equipment failure and nuclear meltdown has once again ignited a heated debate on the safety of nuclear energy, with citizens of some countries with nuclear reactors clamoring for their shut down.
According to Uganda’s economic development blue print – vision 2040 – Uganda’s energy capacity is expected to be 41,000MW.
To achieve the energy threshold encapsulated in vision will be a herculean task given the fact that Uganda’s total energy power production is currently less than 600MW.
Drawing parallels with the economic trajectory taken by Asia’s economic tigers like South Korea and Malaysia, President Yoweri Museveni has been one of the foremost proponents of nuclear energy, saying that Uganda’s energy consumption per capita is way below the threshold required for industrialization.
Currently, Uganda has a Nuclear Energy Unit in ministry of energy which was established by The Atomic Energy Act, 2008.