Group urges Nigerian govt to reconsider nuclear energy plan after Russia accident

A Nuclear power plant used to illustrate the story. [Photo credit: Construction & Engineering Digest]
A Nuclear power plant used to illustrate the story. [Photo credit: Construction & Engineering Digest]

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has warned that Nigeria’s decision to build nuclear power plants to augment the poor power situation in the country will result in mishaps similar to the Arkhangelsk region explosion in Russia last week which led to a spike in radiation levels and mass evacuation of communities near the facility.

Last week, Russian scientists were working on miniaturised sources of nuclear energy when a rocket engine exploded. The explosion killed five people and caused radiation readings in neighbouring cities to spike to 20 times above their normal level in half an hour.

While the Russian defence ministry said that the explosion took place during testing of a rocket engine, the country’s nuclear agency, Rosatom, countered in its report that the incident happened during testing of an isotope power source in a liquid propulsion system.

Rosatom is the corporation that the Nigerian government is partnering with to add nuclear energy to the nation’s energy mix.

The Nigerian government had signed an agreement with the Russian state-owned nuclear energy corporation to build and operate a nuclear power plant, the first of its kind on the continent, as well as a research centre that would house a nuclear research reactor.

The agreement was a furtherance of a memorandum of understanding signed between the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission, NAEC, and Rosatom for the construction of four nuclear power plants at the cost of $20 billion (more than N6 trillion). The four plants will have a total capacity of 4,800 megawatts by 2035.

The agreement came amidst safety concerns about the use of nuclear energy in Nigeria.

The company had, however, maintained that Nigeria would greatly benefit from the partnership.

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‘Nuclear misadventure’

ERA/FoEN, in a statement issued in Lagos, said the Russian incident should send a clear signal to the Nigerian government to back out of any further nuclear experimentation which the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) it signed with Rosatom to build nuclear plants in Nigeria.

Under the arrangement, Rosatom will build nuclear power plants in Kogi and Akwa Ibom states.

Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN deputy executive director, said: “Once again we have another reason to ask the Nigeria government to halt the nuclear misadventure spearheaded by the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) without the consent of Nigerians.”

Mr Oluwafemi said it was disturbing that at a time the global community is pursuing clean and safe energy options including wind and solar technologies, Nigeria is choosing to embrace nuclear power ”which is neither clean nor safe nor cheap.”

“We have not shown sufficient capacity to manage our hydro and gas-fired plants yet we are plunging into the uncharted waters of nuclear power. This plan should stop immediately.

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The Nigeria-Rosatom deal was brokered on the sidelines of the VIII International Forum ATOMEXPO 2016 which held May 30 – June 1, 2016, in Moscow including talks of construction of a Centre for Nuclear Research and Technology in Sheba-Abuja.

A PREMIUM TIMES’ investigation, last year, revealed the appalling condition of the centre.

The agreement provides for the construction of a centre with the two-circuit pool-type reactor of the Russian design and a nominal power rating of 10 MW in Sheba-Abuja. Four nuclear plants that ROSATOM will build will cost about $80billion, with the first expected to be ready by 2025. The other three will be ready by 2035.

“We restate our aversion to throwing nuclear plants into the energy mix in Nigeria,” Mr Oluwafemi said.

”The explosion in Russia even with their expertise is enough indication that it is not the path to go. The details are scary enough. We reject the nuclear option for power generation because they are dangerous and we do not have the capacity to manage the potential disaster a nuclear breach may cause.”

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