Lack of leadership hinders Nigeria’s nuclear road map

Nuclear power
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  • Nigeria developed a roadmap in 2000 to generate electricity from nuclear energy
  • Lack of leadership is to blame for the inability to achieve its 2017 target
  • But a critic says Nigeria should rather focus more on renewable energy

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[ABUJA, NIGERIA] Lack of leadership is frustrating Nigeria’s 2000 target of generating 1,000 megawatts of electricity from a nuclear plant by 2017, experts say.
Nuclear scientists and engineers helped Nigeria develop a road map in 2000 to generate nuclear energy to help address the country’s power challenges.
Seventeen years after the launch of the ambitious nuclear programme that was widely criticised by civil society groups, the government has not even acquired sites for the plants.

“There is an urgent need for political will on the part of [the current] government for the attainment of the road map.”

Turner Isoun, Nigeria’s former science and technology minister

The first nuclear plant, according to the road map, was to begin generating electricity this year.
In the road map, experts allotted 2005-2012 for personnel and infrastructure development; 2006-2008 for design certification, regulatory and licensing approvals; 2007-2015 for construction and start-up; and 2017 for hooking to the national grid to meet government’s desire of generating electricity from a nuclear power reactor.
Vincent Achibong, a nuclear engineer based in Nigeria, told SciDev.Net this month (15 February) in an exclusive interview that the set targets failed because of lack of funding, absence of competent professionals and in-fighting between the various government agencies on who has the mandate to supervise the programme.
 “The various nuclear line agencies, commissions and the ministry of science and technology are fighting each other on who controls the programme and as a result we have not been able to make headway,” Achibong explains.
Turner Isoun, former Nigeria science and technology minister who initiated the programme, tells SciDev.Net: “The [successive] governments have failed to provide the needed leadership to actualise the programme. There is an urgent need for political will on the part of [the current] government for the attainment of the road map. Road maps or timeframes are estimates.”
He adds, “The programme is still alive [although] some of the estimates have outlived their timeframes. But there is still hope.”

According to Isoun, the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission is collaborating with Nigerian universities for the training of the needed personnel for the programme and urged the involvement of the private sector.
But Nnimmo Bassey, president of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, one of the civil society organisations against the programme, tells SciDev.Net that Nigeria does not need the programme.

“Nigeria has no business with nuclear power. We should be focussed on energy production from renewable sources. Nuclear [energy] is expensive and very vulnerable considering Nigeria’s track record in maintenance of facilities,” Bassey says.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.

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