Russia signs African agreements

25 June 2009

Nuclear-related cooperation agreements have been reached in Egypt and Nigeria during a tour of four African countries by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. His tour, between 23 and 26 June, also takes in Namibia and Angola.


Whilst in Egypt, Russia signed a cooperation agreement in the exploration and mining of uranium. Rosatom director general Sergei Kiriyenko, who accompanied Medvedev, said: "Egypt has very promising uranium deposits and is ready to cooperate with us in uranium prospecting and, in future, uranium mining."


The two countries have set up a working group to look into such cooperation. Three further working groups will be set up to consider the possibilities of the construction of nuclear power plants, as well as the training of plant operators and training personnel for state regulatory authorities.


Also during the visit to Egypt, the Russian delegation received an official invitation to participate in the tender for the construction of Egypt's first nuclear power plant.


"We have an official invitation and the tender will be called for in late 2010, most likely," Kiriyenko was quoted as saying by the Itar-Tass news agency.


In March 2008, during a trip to Moscow by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the two countries signed an agreement on cooperation in the field of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.


In 2006, Egypt announced plans to build a 1000 MWe reactor for electricity generation and water desalination at El-Dabaa on the Mediterranean coast by 2015, in a $1.5-$2 billion project that would be open to foreign participation. Egypt recently awarded a contract to Australia-based engineering consultants Worley Parsons to select the reactor technology, choose the site for the plant, organise training and provide technical services.


Nigerian accord


In Nigeria, six official documents were signed, including an agreement for cooperation between Russia and Nigeria in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The signing of the agreement follows a memorandum of cooperation between the two countries in March.


Kiriyenko described the agreement as "broad", covering such areas as the development of nuclear power infrastructure in Nigeria; basic and applied research; feasibility studies into the construction of a research reactor and a nuclear power plant in the country; the production and use of radioisotopes; and the training of relevant personnel.


He added, "The agreement includes the subject of uranium mining, but it is more theoretical since the country does not have large uranium resources but unexplored territories. For us, it is to stake out a claim, in some sense." Kiriyenko noted, "The Nigerian government claims it wants to develop nuclear power, but so far one cannot say when the tender will be called."


To address rapidly increasing base-load electricity demand, Nigeria has sought the support of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to develop plans for up to 4000 MWe of nuclear capacity by 2025.


Early in 2008, the Minister of Science and Technology said that the government has reaffirmed its determination to initiate its nuclear energy program by approving a technical framework for it. This is to proceed through manpower and infrastructure development, power reactor design certification, regulatory and licensing approvals, construction and start-up. In mid 2008, the target was moved forward to having up to 5000 MWe of nuclear capacity by 2017.