Uganda nuclear project ambition gets another boost

Uganda's nuclear energy ambitions have further been boosted by the visit of six experts from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the onsite mission to uranium rich districts in the country.  

Uganda plans to produce up to 30,000 megawatts of electricity from its uranium by 2026. URN has learnt that a team of experts from IAEA headquarters in Vienna have since February 2017 been in Uganda for on-site and external events design (SEED) mission.

Museveni with Atomic Energy Agency boss Yukiya Amano

Preliminary surveys by the ministry of Energy and Mineral Development so far identified the districts of Lamwo, Kiruhura, Mubende and Buyende as potential sites for nuclear energy production.  
IAEA is required by international regulations to conduct SEED missions as part of the process to approve countries seeking to use nuclear or atomic energy for peaceful actions like electricity production.  

SEED missions according to IAEA, are designed to assist member states at different stages in the development of nuclear power programmes. The SEED safety review service offers a choice of modules on which to focus the review, such as site selection and assessment, and the design of structures, systems and components against external hazards.

The government through the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) and the nuclear energy unit of the ministry of Energy had officially requested IAEA to conduct the on-site mission as part of efforts to implement Uganda's Nuclear Power Roadmap development strategy.

The nuclear power roadmap development strategy was approved by cabinet in April 2015. The cabinet tasked the ministry of Energy to, among other issues, work with IAEA on site surveys and energy planning among others.
The ministry of Energy lists nuclear energy as part of its priorities in its policy statement of FY 2018/2019 - 2022/2023.

The visit by the SEED mission is also listed as some of the milestones achieved in the 2017/2018 financial year.

Engineer Sarah Nafuna, the head of nuclear energy unit at the ministry of Energy, could not be reached on phone for further information about the possible outcome from on-site and External Events Design (SEED) mission.

Other sources however indicated that Uganda is likely to meet the safety requirements once planned measures to control external, internal and human induced hazards of nuclear are implemented as par experts' advice.
Uganda, according to the sources, is yet to conduct a comprehensive seismic study to determine the possible hazard factors like earthquakes in areas where the nuclear power plants (NPP) are to be established.

Uganda is one of the 45 countries globally planning to tap into their uranium deposits for power generation. Others in East Africa include Kenya and Tanzania.

Uganda's nuclear energy ambitions have been criticised by some local and international energy experts on account of its huge investment costs and fears about likely disasters.

The government however insists that energy from nuclear power plants will be needed as part of the longer strategy given the rate of urbanisation and industrialisation projects to increase electricity demands.

The government in June last year signed a memorandum of understanding with a Russian firm on possible cooperation in the area of peaceful application of atomic energy.

In January this year, President Yoweri Museveni met the IAEA Director General, Yukiya Amano, at State House Entebbe for discussions on Uganda's nuclear ambitions in areas of energy, health and agriculture.

Museveni has in the past defended Uganda's nuclear ambitions even at high level meetings like the United Nations Security Council.

He said countries like Uganda need to utilise their uranium mineral not to make nuclear bombs but nuclear energy. Government already procured the services of AF-Consult Switzerland Limited to work with Technology Deployment Working Group on a study on integrating nuclear power into the generation capacity plan 2015 - 2040.

The study was aimed at identifying the role of nuclear power in meeting anticipated future energy demand and guide nuclear power development in Uganda.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd