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Uganda steps up nuclear energy plans, experts visit China

Officials visit the construction site of the Nuclear Power Plant in Fuqing. PHOTOS Uganda Embassy Beijing

Uganda energy officials engage China partners on nuclear energy development

Uganda has called for partnership with China in the area of nuclear energy development for peaceful purposes.

“Plans have been made in Uganda to have clean and safe energy generation sources with nuclear being one of them”, said Prisca Boonabantu, Undersecretary in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Developmen, during a visit to China May 2-5.

Boonabantu said that Uganda’s Vision 2040 blueprint incorporates the development of nuclear energy as part of the future energy mix.

She added that the government has also planned to sensitize the public on the peaceful and safe use of nuclear energy. The official emphasized that Uganda welcomes partners to help build, train and develop the nuclear energy in line with IAEA regulations.

Boonabantu said this as she led officials of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral development and the Uganda Atomic Energy Council on a visit to the People’s Republic of China. The visit to Beijing China was organized by the China Zhonguan Engineering Corporation (CZEC), a subsidiary of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).

Boonabantu and Chaodong sign minutes at the CNNC offices.

According to a statement, the Ugandans were able to visit an on-going construction of a Nuclear Power Plant in Fuqing China where they got to know the latest information about the current project. The visit also agreed on the text of a Draft MoU between Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and China National Nuclear Energy Corporation.

It came as a follow up to an earlier visit held in Kampala in March 2016. The visit provided a platform for the team to engage key Chinese nuclear energy agencies such as the China National Nuclear Safety Administration (CNNSA) and China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) and “get a deeper understanding on the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the technology advancement in its development.”

The delegation was accompanied by Uganda Embassy, Beijing officials was able to visit the CNNSA state of the art emergency rapid response control centre which monitors all nuclear active sites in China, a Miniature Nuclear Source Reactor and a fast Nuclear Reactor at the CIAE, where they saw firsthand the use of nuclear energy for energy generation, research and training purposes.

Yang Chaodong, President of CZEC informed them that China was ready to partner with Uganda in the area of nuclear energy development.

He noted that his company was the key state owned enterprise that had specialized in development of nuclear power plants, miniature nuclear source reactors in China and across the globe in countries such as Pakistan, Nigeria, Ghana and Algeria. He informed that various training opportunities are offered by the Government of China in the area of nuclear energy. He said China was ready to foster closer cooperation with Uganda through partnerships and dialogue.

Russians also interested

There are also plans for partnerships on nuclear energy with the Russians.

On Oct. 13 last year, a Russian government delegation was in Uganda to meet President Yoweri Museveni.  The delegation comprised top officials from Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation, which was led by Viktor Polikarpov, the firm’s regional vice-president for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Both parties confirmed a willingness to start cooperation in the “peaceful use of nuclear power” and signed a framework memorandum of understanding, with the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development signing on the behalf of Uganda. Effectively, the country has made a giant step towards nuclear power development. Should the talks materialise, co-operation between the two countries will see Uganda gain expertise so as to realize nuclear power development.

President Museveni, who is a strong advocate of industrialization and value addition to Uganda’s mineral resources, said he supports the development of nuclear power in the near future and emphasised the importance of professional training of Ugandan nationals in this sphere.

At the October meeting in Kampala, Alexey Volin, the Russian deputy minister for communication and mass media,  said Russia wants to see, among other things, “the construction of a lot of nuclear plants because you need a lot of energy.”

Rosatam, the Russian State atomic energy corporation, among others, runs Uranium extraction and production, nuclear power generation, nuclear fuel, nuclear weapons and nuclear safety activities in Russia and globally.

Uganda currently generates just over 800MW of electricity, but projections show that if development objectives are to be achieved by 2035, Uganda will need a generation capacity totaling up to 40,000MW. This can only be achieved with substantial investment in nuclear power, which is produced by reacting Uranium.  Indeed, if the government were to add nuclear power to its energy mix, it would ramp up its electricity generation by up to 24,000MW.

An airborne geophysical survey done by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development with support from the World Bank, hinted that the country has about 52,000 sq km of uranium prospects. But, the exact amount of uranium deposits is still unknown.

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