The Nuclear Security Summit(NSS) which ended in Washington DC last week has raised to the front burner the important question of the status of Nigeria’s nuclear programme.
Many questions have been asked: Does Nigeria have a nuclear programme? Should Nigeria get involved in nuclear diplomacy? In other words, what are the benefits of Nigeria’s participation in the fourth National Security Summit (NSS) which ended April 1, in Washington DC, USA?
The NSS, a brainchild of US President, Barak Obama was first hosted in Washington DC in 2010 with 47 countries and international organisations in attendance. In the second Summit which held in Seoul, South Korea in 2012, 53 countries participated. The Summit moved to The Hague in 2014 while the fourth Summit returned to Washington DC on April 1.
Nuclear technology is gradually assuming center stage in the development of many countries especially the production of electricity.
The US with 100 working reactors leads the pack of 10 countries with substantial production capacities of nuclear power. The others being France, Russia, South Korea, China, Canada, German, Ukraine, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Forty five other countries are at various stages of either conception or development of their nuclear programmes.
Nigeria’s romance with nuclear technology began in 1976 with the establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission which was set up primarily to check the movement of radioactive substances into the country.
In one of the several efforts to boost electricity generation in the country, Nigeria approached the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) for support to develop plans for the production of 4000 MWe of nuclear capacity by 2025. In 2007, the Federal Government approved a road map and implementation strategy for the nuclear power sector. Under the plan, Nigeria hopes to produce 1000 MWe of nuclear capacity by 2020 and another 4000MWe by 2030.
Nigeria has since 2009 entered into series of agreements with Russia for development of four nuclear power plants estimated to cost $20billion with the first expected to come on stream in 2025. The Russian company Rosatom behind the project has assured of possible Russian funding sources. Upon completion in 2035, the four plants should produce 4800MWe for the country.
The ABU project is useful for development of expertise in nuclear technology especially in relation to medical science, geochemistry, mineral and petrochemical exploration and analysis.
In spite of these significant developments however, very little is known about the progress of the Of the country’s nuclear programme. This perhaps accounts for the criticism which trailed President Buhari’s presence in the US for the NSS. What this means is that the Nigeria Nuclear Energy Authority should mount a robust public awareness campaign to ensure a buy – in of this serious national development programme.
Besides, Nigeria’s on-going fight against the Boko Haram terrorists makes it imperative for the country to support initiatives such as the NSS which objective is to prevent nuclear terrorism.
Going forward however, Nigeria should look beyond Russia for her nuclear energy programme. France which has considerable expertise in nuclear technology and next only to the US in terms of size of international nuclear power production should also be considered.
Dear readers, I regret to inform you that this column will rest today. I thank you all for your readership over time.