In response to its growing energy crisis, South Africa is planning to expand its current nuclear capacity. Other African countries are also considering developing peaceful nuclear energy programmes to meet their development goals.
The collapse of the uranium price means nuclear material is now more affordable. This creates new opportunities for countries to pursue other peaceful nuclear activities, including nuclear energy, while some countries are moving away from mining uranium. But at what cost?
This seminar, hosted by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), discussed nuclear dynamics in Africa, and the role that Russia is willing and able to play to support African states in their ambitions to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
The seminar was opened by Noel Stott, Senior Research Fellow at the ISS. It was moderated by Nicolas Kasprzyk, ISS Consultant. Anton Khlopkov, director of the Center for Energy and Security Studies and an expert on nuclear issues and of the Russian Federation’s foreign policy, was the sole speaker.
His presentation highlighted the following:
- Over 45 countries are actively considering embarking upon nuclear power programmes, including Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Tunisia and Uganda.
- South Africa is also planning to expand its reliance on nuclear energy, which currently represents 5% of its energy mix.
- South Africa is the only African country to operate nuclear power reactors. However, several African states have research reactors in operation (2 in Algeria, 1 in Egypt, 1 in Morocco and 1 in South Africa) or other types of nuclear research installations (Ghana, Nigeria and Libya).
- Four African states are uranium producers: Malawi, Namibia, Niger and South Africa.
- Russia is a major player in the nuclear market. It represents 7% of uranium production, 20% of uranium conversion, 45% of uranium enrichment, and 25% of the construction of nuclear power plants.
- Thirty-eight nuclear power plants with a Russian design are operated in countries other than Russia: Armenia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, China, Hungary, India, Iran, Finland, Slovakia, Ukraine.
- ROSATOM, the Russian nuclear corporation, has projects in place in 12 countries other than Russia related to the construction of nuclear power plants.
The speaker also identified areas for potential Russia-Africa nuclear co-operation. These include:
- A development project in Tanzania towards uranium extraction
- The supply of low-enriched uranium to South Africa for Koeberg nuclear power plant fuel fabrication
- The construction of nuclear power plants including Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and South Africa
- Personnel training
- The construction of research reactors
- Legislative and regulatory assistance
Closed discussions after the presentation focused on:
- The potential and limits of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) alliance in supporting African states in their nuclear ambitions.
- The strengths and weaknesses of ROSATOM in developing nuclear co-operation.
The risk that the development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy on the African continent may result in the diversion of sensitive material and technology that could fuel the nuclear weapons programmes of nuclear-armed states, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.