Although there is great potential for nuclear power in Africa and good reason for it, there is currently very little generation of this source on the continent. This is according to Greg Kaser, Senior Project Manager, World Nuclear Association, who spoke to Engerati at the recent African Utility Week.
He points to Africa’s enormous hydropower sources as one of the main reasons for this. Countries are opting for hydropower first since with nuclear, you need large regulatory infrastructure and significant technical expertise to get into a nuclear program.
There is also the perception that nuclear power is more expensive due to its upfront costs. This of course doesn’t fit well with a continent with people who simply can’t afford electricity, explains Kaser. However, if you compare nuclear with other renewable sources of energy, nuclear may be cheaper. Costs favour nuclear over solar and while there is an argument that the costs of solar will reduce over time especially as the technology matures, nuclear provides a good back-up source. Kaser points out that a good energy mix will secure the reliability of power.
When it comes to drought, nuclear is also a lot more flexible. While nuclear plants need water for cooling, waste water can be used in dry and arid countries instead of the ocean and lakes. Kaser points to Jordan as a good example of this.
To reach Africa’s outlying, sparsely populated areas, small modular reactors are being built. These are one tenth of the size of the average nuclear plant. Because of their size, they are easy to transport. The small model offers flexibility to the area since more plants can be brought in as the population and its needs grows. This is a good opportunity for areas like this to plan for the future.