Ministers and policymakers are meeting in the US to dialogue about the role of nuclear energy in the transition to clean energy sources. The conference to which Uganda is represented by State Minister for Energy, Dr. Opolot Okasai comes at a time when countries are showing greater interest in nuclear power.
Europe, OECD, and some countries in Asia had announced plans to phase out or reduce nuclear plants. But the war in Ukraine, coupled with energy security concerns is seeing a comeback of nuclear energy.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General, Rafael Mariano Grossi said the nuclear energy industry is not an industry of the past but an industry of the future. Others have said the world is headed for a nuclear renaissance. Grossi expressed high hopes for using nuclear energy to tackle major challenges from climate change to sustainable development.
The U.S. Energy Secretary Granholm said: “We see enormous potential in nuclear power to advance our climate goals, to enhance our energy security, to widen affordable energy access, to create millions of high quality, good-paying jobs.”
The International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century, running from 26 to 28 October 2022 in Washington, D.C has provided a forum for ministers, policymakers, and experts to engage on how nuclear energy can contribute to sustainable development and mitigating climate change.
A growing number of countries see nuclear power playing an essential role in contributing to sustainable development and the mitigation of climate change. About 440 nuclear power reactors, operating in 32 countries, provide about 390 gigawatts of nuclear power generating capacity. They produce over a quarter of the world’s low-carbon electricity. About 50 additional countries have expressed interest in the introduction of nuclear power.
Among the fifty includes Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Sudan. Egypt has already begun the construction of a nuclear reactor. South Africa is the only country on the African continent with an operational nuclear power reactor. Uganda, according to sources from the Ministry of Energy is expected to continue lobbying for possible funding for the planned $9 billion- 2000 MW nuclear reactor. The Energy Ministry Permanent Secretary Engineer Irene Batebe recently revealed that Uganda is shopping for technology and possible financing from the USA, Russia, and Japan.
In neighboring Kenya, there are plans, to begin with, a-1000MW nuclear plant by 2027. This is expected to rise to a total of 4000MW by 2033 making nuclear electricity a key component of the country’s energy mix and an enabler to realization of vision 2030.l
Apart from financing and technology, Uganda is also seeking for investors to invest in the processing of the vast uranium resources into nuclear fuel. Recent geological surveys indicated that Uganda has over 52,000 square kilometers of uranium prospects.
Apart from Mayuge where the government plan to establish the 2,000MW nuclear energy reactor, other places with uranium deposits include the 18,000 km2 in the Buganda-Toro region; 12,000 km2 in the Karagwe-Ankole region; 5,000 km2 between Lake Albert and Lake Kyoga; 5,000 km2 around Lake Edward; 900 km2 on the Buhweju plateau and 12,000 km2 in Lake Albert.
Okasai had not presented Uganda’s position paper by the time of filing this report. The government took a decision not to export any raw minerals including Uranium. While the ministry of energy is yet to come up with a new renewable energy policy.
Engineer Irene Batebe recently indicated that Uganda plans to exploit its geothermal, and nuclear resources as part of the energy mix. With growing interest in nuclear, Uganda and other African countries with uranium deposits are likely to see demand for uranium as a transition energy mineral.
According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), Russia is the United States’ fourth largest source of uranium. In 2021, 14% of the uranium the US purchased came from Russia.
The US’s top three sources of uranium are Kazakhstan (35% of imports), Canada (15%), and Australia (14%).
Namibia is the largest African producer, shipping out around 4,000 tonnes of Uranium annually, while Niger and Malawi each produce and export around 1,000 tonnes of uranium per year.
After dropping from a peak of nearly $65 a pound in April 2022 to below $50, the price of uranium futures has been rebounding in recent weeks as nuclear power plants get switched back. The price of the so-called “yellowcake” plummeted following a powerful earthquake in Japan in 2011 that caused a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima plant.