Given the growing interest in nuclear energy generation from Africa countries, this study takes a closer look at nuclear energy from an African perspective and considers the emerging information in relation to nuclear energy supply in the countries that have advanced plans for nuclear- South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.
This study was commissioned by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in September 2014 and a final report submitted in January 2015. The report was updated to reflect recent events, in July 2015. The primary research was conducted by independent researcher Brenda Martin and at a later stage academic analysis was provided by Dr David Fig, an African Energy scholar. Both contributed to the writing of the final report and forthcoming popular version of it.
During the primary research over 40 stakeholder interviews were conducted, 2 national workshops were held, and an extensive literature review was undertaken. This report presents a summary and overall analysis of findings and includes concrete recommendations for civil society engagement. According to the research, government representatives in all countries cite economic growth (particularly job creation) and addressing access, as key motivations for investment in nuclear power. The theory of change is: boost grid-based electricity supply and access and the economy will grow naturally. In addition, in a context of growing global awareness of the need to transition to low carbon energy solutions, nuclear power generation as a ‘low carbon solution’ is also a commonly stated objective.
Of the countries under review, South Africa’s nuclear ambition is the largest – with plans to add 9,600 MW of nuclear power to the existing 40,000 MW generation capacity. Nigeria and Kenya both aim to add 4,000 MW of nuclear power to existing relatively low national grid capacity.
The risk of high tariffs (and related likely continued lack of access) due to common costly nuclear power investment models is not seen as an insurmountable hurdle. All 3 countries are investigating finance models and appear confident that cost is not a constraint.
It has emerged that Nigeria and South Africa’s nuclear ambition and progress toward procurement is the furthest advanced, and that Kenya is making slow but steady progress toward achieving its ambition at similar scale to that of Nigeria.
All three countries have opted voluntarily to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency milestones for nuclear investment and in turn, enjoy the pro-active support of the Agency and that of global powers, some of whom are in fact reducing their own domestic nuclear power investment.
Globally, the nuclear power sector is in decline, particularly post-Fukushima. Construction delays, escalating costs, changing financial models, heightened secrecy and lack of public consultation are all long-standing features of an industry which operates in a global context where Renewable Energy is flourishing.
The unassailable desire for energy security of supply, for increased energy access and the commonly held belief that economic growth and social well-being are all contingent on reliable base load energy supply, are all powerful driving forces of ambition for centralised energy infrastructure investment in Africa today.
Views on the best technology options differ widely, but the common message from civil society is clear: energy investment decisions have to be made urgently, but on the basis of factual information which fairly considers ALL available options and with full transparency and accountability.
This study cautions against nuclear investment generally and recommends specific areas for focused anti-nuclear lobbying and advocacy.