The real cost of nuclear in Africa

The real cost of nuclear in Africa

Apart from South Africa, which is the only country in the continent to have a plant with two reactors, several countries including Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan have expressed their intentions to be able to produce electricity from this energy source. Some of them, such as Libya, Algeria, DRC, Morocco and Nigeria already have reactors for medical research. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), today more than a third of the candidate countries for nuclear energy are African. According to the experts, by 2025, in addition to South Africa, at least five African countries will be equipped with nuclear power plants.

To achieve this level, several projects are now conducted on the African continent, by Russia (Egypt, Nigeria, Zambia) or China (Egypt, Sudan, Kenya). China General Nuclear Power Corporation invested in Husab uranium mine in Namibia. Beijing has also signed an agreement with Uganda for the construction of a 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant and another agreement with Kenya for the construction of its first nuclear power plant.

Kenya, Sudan and Zambia rely mainly on hydropower, according to the International Energy Agency . A 2.4 gigawatt nuclear plant would double the combined production of electricity in those countries. Nigeria’s main energy source is gas, so a 4.8-gigawatt nuclear power plant is needed to double its capacity.

The ambition is to cover the energy needs that are expressed in these countries. From the experts’ point of view, it is still necessary to install 160 gigawatts by 2025 and much more in 2050 to Africa to meet its needs. In sub-Saharan Africa 57% of the population does not have access to electricity and is thus deprived of development opportunities. “Africa is hungry for energy and nuclear energy could be part of the solution for a growing number of countries,” said Mikhail Chudakov, head of the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Energy.

In addition to needs, Africa has the potential for nuclear power generation. 20% of the world’s uranium reserves are there and thirty-four countries have them in their basements. This energy is a very attractive option for many leaders. For example, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has recently made surprising remarks that his country plans to produce 30 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2026, equivalent to 16 times the current total production of nuclear power across the continent. Zambia is also looking to build a nuclear power plant which is expected to cost USD 30 billion. Given Zambia’s annual budget of USD 7.2 billion, it is unsustainable. How can Africa afford such technology?

The agreement between Rosatom with Bangladesh provides a useful benchmark. In the case of Rooppur NPP which produces a power capacity of 2.4 gigawatts, we find that the company «Rosatom» provide them with a loan worth USD 12.65 billion. This amount covers only construction costs. The amount due for interest and potential cost overruns, operations and shutdowns is likely to be more than double that amount , which is likely to raise the total cost of approximately $ 30 billion.

These financing procedures are similar to those of the Al Dabaa project in Egypt. Rosatom has provided a USD 25 billion loan. The annual interest on loans to both projects in Bangladesh and Egypt is 3%. In addition, the loan has been developed in such a way as to ensure that repayment will begin only in 10 to 13 years from date and continue to pay annual installments for 22 to 28 years thereafter. By that time, the annualized interest rate of 3% may increase to more than 40% of the outstanding amount.

The history of the nuclear power industry is overshooting costs and delaying construction. Thus, any country may face a situation in which a service in excess of its debt exceeds the expected limit, while it is unable to compensate for the money from electricity sales. Equally worrying is that Russia will be in a position to exert disproportionate influence on the affairs of the country on which the nuclear plant is based.


About Author

Arnaud Lefevre

Arnaud Lefevre is the Chief Executive Officer of Dynatom International. Arnaud is in charge of the international development of the business portfolio.