Nigeria needs to electrify 80 per cent of population by 2035 to achieve sustainable growth, says Polikarpov


Viktor Polikarpov is the Regional Vice-President of Sub-Saharan Africa, Rosatom, a Russia-based nuclear power company. Recently, he spoke with the media on challenges facing Nigeria’s nuclear power plant and proffers solutions. GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR writes.

What is the significance of the Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) agreement signed by Nigeria and your company?
This is a step forward. It is a project development agreement on the construction and operation of a nuclear power plant and a multi-purpose research reactor centre.

The agreement envisages studies for the nuclear plant and research reactor centre projects, which will include site surveys and estimation of key project parameters, capacity, machinery required, time frame, implementation stages and financing mechanisms.

It is believed that Nigeria is going to play a key role in the area of nuclear development in the continent, why is your firm looking on to Nigeria to drive the continent’s nuclear power ambition?
First of all, Nigeria is an economic giant in Africa. But the country is in a peculiar situation today, as a result of its energy crisis. The population of Nigeria is growing at a rapid rate and could reach 200 million by 2020. The installed capacity of Nigeria’s energy is extremely low for a country that is aspiring to become an industrial hub in the continent. There is urgent need to undertake an energy mix, where there would be a place for nuclear as another source of power. But we are absolutely convinced that it would improve its nuclear capacity as part of its energy mix.

Besides that, we already have an agreement signed with the Nigerian government on nuclear power plant cooperation. For instance, as far back as June 2012, we signed an inter-governmental agreement on cooperation for the design; construction and commissioning of nuclear power plants. We are close to cooperating with your country. On May 30, 2016, we also signed an agreement on restructuring of Nigeria’s nuclear technology. So, we are working together. We are having joint session cooperation with the Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) on nuclear power. However, we are looking forward to implementing the Nigeria-Russia nuclear agreement on the application of atomic energy. We are prepared to go ahead with the nuclear power plant in Nigeria.

What are the real safety assessments and safeguards in place for a nuclear technology?
Nuclear technology is one of the most innovative spheres of industrial and scientific development. Modern nuclear reactors and plants have proved to be real ‘workhorses’ for developed and developing countries. They are among the safest and most secured industrial facilities in world.

The truth is that, nuclear energy is as safe as, or even safer than any other form of energy available. It is also the only large-scale energy industry that takes full responsibility for all waste produced. Nuclear waste is comparatively low in output, and is neither particularly hazardous nor hard to manage relative to other toxic industrial wastes, such as that from coal or photovoltaic power elements, which contain deadly toxic elements.

The successful global track record of operating NPPs clearly shows that nuclear energy is, perhaps, the most balanced option for conserving the environment — including air, land, water, and wildlife — than any other energy source. It produces no harmful greenhouse gases, successfully isolates its waste from the environment, and requires far less land area to produce the same amount of electricity as other sources.

Spent nuclear fuel is stored on site at the power plant in a cooling pool for 10 years and only then, once 90% of the radiation has dissipated is it moved to special casks on a highly secured site where it is safely stored for years to come.

There is stiff competition for power provision with the other power-generating bodies in the mix (diesel, etc). How would those be addressed?
Nigeria needs to diversify its current energy mix. As Nigeria wants to embark on the path of dynamic development, it needs more energy to ensure sustainable growth. The Nigerian government aims to electrify at least 80 per cent of its population by the year 2035.

Currently, the country’s installed capacity is estimated at around 13,000 MW, only half of this is operational, and only about 5,000 MW reaches the grid. Nigeria is believed to be spending about $14 billion a year on off-the-grid diesel generation. Primary energy consumption is largely satisfied by traditional biomass and waste (typically consisting of wood, charcoal, manure, and crop residues) and accounts for 74 per cent of the energy mix. The International Energy Agency estimates that 115 million people in Nigeria rely on traditional biomass and waste as their main sources of energy. The other 26 per cent is made up of oil, gas and hydropower. In recent years, the electricity production from hydroelectric sources has plunged due to water shortages and climate change.

As Nigeria continues its journey to economic development, it needs more energy to ensure sustainable growth. The Nigerian government aims to electrify at least 80 per cent of its population by the year 2035.

In what ways would this create an inflow of jobs within the marketplace? And which sectors would experience this the most?
Investing in nuclear projects will stimulate cash flows to the national budget. It has the tendency to surpass direct investments by a significant margin. The actual amount of investments depends directly on technologies involved.
New plant construction creates a direct demand for thousands of locally sourced skilled labourers, such as; welders, pipefitters, masons, carpenters, millwrights, sheet metal workers, electricians, ironworkers, heavy equipment operators and insulators, as well as engineers, project managers and construction supervisors.

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NAECNPPViktor Polikarpov

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