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Power for Africa: The boom of nuclear energy

The military government recently signed a declaration of intent aimed at increasing the country’s electricity supply.

Power for Africa: The boom of nuclear energy

Representative image.

WASHINGTON: Burkina Faso is one of the least electrified countries in the world. According to data from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), only about 20% of the population has access to electricity. Yet electricity is urgently needed and central to economic development.

The military government recently signed a declaration of intent aimed at increasing the country’s electricity supply. As part of the agreement, Rosatom, a State-owned Russian company, will be responsible for constructing a nuclear power plant.

This development could significantly enhance Burkina Faso’s electricity capacity within the next few years. But experts are skeptical about the viability of the project.

Ibrahim Traore has ruled the country since the military coup in the fall of 2022 and, aged 35, he is the youngest serving president in the world. He has largely turned his back on France — the former colonial power — as a partner and instead, has set his sights on Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

For critics like Adrien Poussou, former Central African Republic minister for national reconciliation, the construction of a nuclear power plant is merely a form of Russian propaganda. “It is absurd that the African continent, which has sun, can have problems with energy and electricity,” the political analyst told DW.

Solar energy should be the solution, not an agreement to build a nuclear power plant, he stressed. Burkina Faso is not the only African country dabbling in nuclear energy in collaboration with foreign partners. Rosatom also aims to assist Mali in harnessing civilian nuclear power.

In addition, Rosatom has been constructing Egypt’s inaugural nuclear power plant in the city of El Dabaa on the Mediterranean coast.

The project, initiated in 2022, is set to comprise four Russian power plant blocks, each generating 1,200 MW of power.

Other parts of Africa are also considering nuclear power as a viable, low-CO2 option for generating electricity, alongside renewable energy sources. The Ugandan Ministry of Energy announced in March of this year that nuclear energy would be utilized to generate more electricity in the country by 2031.

Preparations are reportedly underway to evaluate a site in eastern Uganda’s Buyende District for the construction of the first nuclear power plant. Along that vein, Uganda has signed an agreement with China’s National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to jointly construct two reactor blocks located 120 km northeast of Kampala.

Neighboring Kenya has expressed its intention to begin building a nuclear power plant in the year 2027, with an estimated construction timeline of 10 years.

The districts of Kilifi and Kwale, which are located near the port metropolis of Mombasa, are currently being considered as potential locations. The Kenyan nuclear authority, NuPEA, has stated that the power plant, once finished, will be able to meet the country’s increasing energy demands by generating approximately 1,000 MW of power.

XN Iraki, an analyst from the University of Nairobi, expressed his skepticism to DW. “It’s surprising that we’re getting into nuclear power even though we have so much energy.” After all, Kenya is widely recognized as a trailblazer in Africa for its utilization of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal power, which collectively contribute to the generation of green electricity. The country currently derives around 90% percent of its energy from renewable sources, primarily geothermal energy, hydro- and wind power.

DW Bureau
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