By Wana Kalala in Sochi, Russia
ZAMBIA is making plans to establish a fully operational nuclear power plant, says Zambia Atomic Energy Agency head Dr Roland Msiska.
Speaking during a plenary session on ‘Nuclear for better life’ at the 2019 Atomexpo in Sochi on Monday, Dr Msiska said Zambia’s engagement in the nuclear field would involve the setting up a research reactor and NPP.
Dr Msiska said the project had been necessitated by the need to harness alternative forms of clean renewable energy, particularly nuclear technology, for the socio-economic transformation of the country.
“In 2015 we had a very severe drought and the result of which the hydro-electric generation dropped very dramatically. Our GDP growth reduced by 40 per cent and we had to import electricity via ship on shore which was 18 cents per kilowatt hour. It really was a stress to the economy. Clearly the President at that time felt it was important that we improve our energy mix and in that discussion it became very clear to us, being a new entrant into this field, we probably needed a very deliberate and systemic capacity building and so the research reactor became the first initial step,” he said.
He commended Russian State Nuclear Corporation (ROSATOM) for providing technical expertise to the project.
“We were very fortunate, I must commend our colleagues from Rosatom, who gladly came to our aid and assisted us in a lot of areas even just starting the initial dialogue for acceptance and all those particular things, which I think become very critical when moving forward. So our view was that the next ten to fifteen years, we should go over to a nuclear power plant,” he said.
He added that fifty Zambian students were currently training in various fields in Russia and would be engaged in running the reactor once they completed their education.
On May 15, 2018, Zambia and ROSATOM signed a general contract for the construction of a Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology (CNST) in Chongwe. The project will be implemented in several stages within 3-6 years from the commencement date under the contract.
The research reactor (RR) is the heart of a CNST. Globally over 240 research reactors are in operation in 55 countries, including Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Algeria, Congo and South Africa, and 10 more are now under construction.
Zambia will become the 9th African country to possess a research reactor. Its main applications in industry are transport installations, seawater desalination, hydrogen production, district heating, industrial radiography and other non-destructive testing methods, material modification and security screening systems.
Dr Msiska said the project would also bring benefits to the country’s health sector.
“We are in a very interesting situation. We are a country that is both in a demographic transition where we are having a very high infectious disease burden but also you have these non-infectious degenerative conditions – the cancers and all the rest of them – and looking at the present technology …maybe we have an opportunity to design our entire health system around ensuring that the technology both in diagnostics, technology both in treatment of cancers and just the whole field of research in that area, the research reactor gives us that particular opportunity,” he said.
“So for us as Zambia, this is not something that we are thinking twice about. We are making plans for hundred years engagement in the nuclear field; fifty years for the research reactor and hundred years for the NPP [nuclear power plant] and we are of the view that the future is in this area.”
Dr Msiska further said the government was in the process of drafting a nuclear bill, which would include the establishment of a independent regulator to ensure that Zambia complies with international standards on safety.
“We are not ashamed to say we have borrowed a lot from our Russian colleagues because we felt that we needed a hand [from] a country which has developed a lot [in this area]. So in several ways we are benchmarking ourselves with the Russian system,” said Dr Msiska.
17/04/19 The Mast Newspaper