The challenges of nuclear energy

Nuclear energy is one of the more attractive options when considering a clean, reliable and cost-effective energy source. But, it does not come without its challenges.

For instance, it could take years for a country anywhere in the world to initiate a nuclear power programme and, infrastructure development could not come any sooner than 10 -15 years. Simply put, the nuclear route requires a lot of patience and dedication – especially in Africa where a number of countries are working towards development.

According to Miliko Kovachev, Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section: “A successful nuclear power programme requires broad political and popular support and a national commitment of at least 100 years.”

100 years, a commitment that would not address Africa’s pressing power needs in the near term, especially with Sub-Saharan Africa’s population set to double over the next 30 years.

But, there is an alternative solution. Small scale nuclear reactors.

Defined by the World Nuclear Association as reactors that are generally 300MWe equivalent or less, small scale nuclear reactors are designed with modular technology using module factory fabrication, pursuing economies of series production and short construction times, making them one of the more practical solutions for African countries.

Another major hurdle of nuclear energy is financing. Due to its high cost of implementation, African countries looking at nuclear energy could be deterred. But, there are financing mechanisms like, for instance, from export agencies of vendor countries. Tapping into a reliable, carbon-free supply of energy when vendors are offering to fund it can make sense for several countries in Africa.