Nigeria's new President and energy minister, Umaru Yar'Adua, has urged the country to embrace nuclear power in order to meet its growing energy needs.
He said, "We need to develop the capacity to utilize nuclear power for power generation. Who knows, nuclear power may be the only source of energy in the future, and we must think of the future." Yar'Adua was speaking after a briefing on the National Program for the Deployment of Nuclear Power for Generation of Electricity by Erepamo Osaisai, director general of Nigeria's National Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC).
Osaisai has estimated that Nigeria will suffer from an electricity shortage of some 11,000 to 17,000 MWe by 2017, when demand would total between 28,360 and 31,240 MWe. The country currently has installed capacity to generate 6000 MWe, out of which less than 4000 MWe is available. By 2017, Osaisai said that the country could be generating 3000 to 5000 MWe from electricity from hydro power sources, while other conventional sources like oil and gas could contribute 7000 to 9000 MWe. According to Osaisai, nuclear energy could be used to meet some of the projected shortfall in electricity supply.
Osaisai said that the nuclear roadmap, which consists of a three-phase technical framework developed by the NAEC, to generate at least 1000 MWe of electricity through nuclear power by 2017 and to increase this to 4000 MWe by 2027, has been approved and adopted by the government.
Responding to proposals for further work by the NAEC, Yar'Adua added, "We have to align your work with the National Power Policy, taking cognizance of other sources of energy generation - oil, gas, hydro, wind and solar." He has ordered the Ministry of Science and Technology to look at the regulatory framework for the implementation of nuclear energy, especially the options of funding.
Alhaji Abdullahi Aliyu, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology, said that he had received a presidential mandate to explore the use of nuclear energy for the generation of electricity. He said that a committee had been formed to advise and chart the road map for its implementation. The Nigerian government said in 2006 that it was working on upgrading the country's energy profile with about 4000 MWe expected from nuclear sources by 2014.
Yar'Adua has also announced his cabinet, almost three months after he was elected. He himself will be energy minister, just as his predecessor, Olusegun Obasanjo, was before him. This will make Yar'Adua responsible for Nigeria's petroleum industry and its troubled power sector.
In May 2007, Nigeria inaugurated two technical committees to construct the country's first nuclear power plant. At that time, Osaisai said that the government's desire for nuclear energy was to support current sources of oil, gas and hydro. He said that the inauguration of the two committees - Manpower Training and NPP Siting - was the beginning of the implementation of the national program.
President Yar'Adua's call for Nigeria to develop nuclear energy comes at a time when the country's own nuclear regulator expressed concerns in the country's handling of radioactive materials. Speaking last week, Shamsudeen Elegba, director of the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority, said that despite upgrading controls designed to halt the illicit trafficking of radioactive materials, "we still have some challenges in the safety and security of radioactive sources." He said that progress had been made but highlighted lack of dedicated storage facilities and detection capacity at ports of entry, inadequately trained staff and inadequate tracking of sources as Nigeria's major challenges. The petroleum industry is currently the main user of radioactive materials in Nigeria. The materials, in tools to detect cracks in pipelines or to measure exploratory oil wells, have gone missing or been stolen in the past.
Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority
WNA's Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries information paper