Nigeria's government has approved the technical framework for fast tracking the deployment of nuclear power plants for electricity generation in the country. However, the country is said to lack the regulatory framework and trained workers needed for such a programme.
Grace Ekpihwre, the Minister of Science and Technology, said that the government has reaffirmed its determination to initiate the implementation of its nuclear energy programme by approving the technical framework. She said the plan for the nuclear power plant is to be implemented in three phases, including manpower and infrastructure development, power reactor design certification, regulatory and licensing approvals and construction and start-up.
Ekpihwre said that the introduction of nuclear energy in Nigeria would be done under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidelines in order to ensure transparency and to assure the international community that the nuclear facility is deployed for peaceful purposes only.
However, the director general of the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA), Shamsideen Elegba, has said that the country lacks adequate trained manpower and licensing of designed construction plant. He was speaking at the opening ceremony of a month-long training programme organized by the NNRA in partnership with the IAEA for regulators to ensure continuous improvement in the protection of workers from radioactive sources.
He said: "Nigeria does not have a nuclear power programme, but has robust and rapidly growing peaceful applications. But there are still challenges." He added, "These include adequately trained manpower for licensing of sites for nuclear power plants, licensing of design and construction of the plant and associated civil works and infrastructure and finally licensing the commissioning, operation and decommissioning of such nuclear plant facilities."
Elegba said: "There over 100,000 radiation workers in the country and the number are growing. There are in the country, a nuclear research reactor and dozens of neutron generators. There is a couple of thousands of radioactive sources for various applications in these practices in the country. Yet there are still challenges." He said that radioactive materials are in use in seven sectors of the Nigerian economy: petroleum, mining, manufacturing, construction, agriculture, water resources, health, as well as education and research.
He added, "It is equally important that our regulators demonstrate competence in the strict adherence to the international safeguards regime."
To address rapidly increasing base-load electricity demand, Nigeria has sought the support of the IAEA to develop plans for up to 4000 MWe of nuclear capacity by 2025. Nigeria is Africa's most populous country and its power demand was expected to reach 10,000 MWe by 2007 - current grid-supplied capacity is 2600 MWe. In May 2007, Nigeria inaugurated two technical committees to construct the country's first nuclear power plant.