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Russian mishap a foretaste of Nigeria’s nuclear ambition, warns ERA

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria has warned that Nigeria’s decision to build nuclear power plants to augment the poor power situation in the country will result in mishaps similar to the recent Arkhangelsk region explosion in Russia which led to a spike in radiation levels and mass evacuation of communities near the facility.

Nuclear Plant  Russian mishap a foretaste of Nigeria’s nuclear ambition, warns ERA Plant
A nuclear power plant in Doel, Belgium. Photo credit: Julien Warnand / European Press Photo Agency

On Thursday, August 8, 2019, Russian scientists were working on miniaturised sources of nuclear energy when a rocket engine exploded. The explosion killed five people and caused radiation readings in neighbouring cities to spike to 20 times above their normal level in half an hour.

While the Russian defence ministry said that the explosion took place during testing of a rocket engine, the country’s nuclear agency, Rosatom, countered in its report that the incident happened during testing of an isotope power source in a liquid propulsion system.

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Rosatom is the corporation that the Nigerian government is partnering to add nuclear energy to the nation’s energy mix. The decision and the process has been criticised by civil society and communities in Itu, Akwa Ibom State that have warned that citing nuclear plant in their community does not have their support.

ERA/FoEN, in a statement issued in Lagos on Thursday, August 15, 2019 and made available to EnviroNews, said that the current incident should send a clear signal to the Nigerian government to back out of any further nuclear experimentation which the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) it signed with Rosatom to build nuclear plants in Nigeria.

Under the arrangement, Rosatom will build nuclear power plants in Kogi and Akwa Ibom even though the host communities in Geregu and Itu respectively say they were not even consulted before the choice of their communities for the project.

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ERA/FoEN Deaputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said: “Once again we have another reason to ask the Nigeria government to halt the nuclear misadventure spearheaded by the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) without the consent of Nigerians.”

Oluwafemi explained that it was very disturbing that at a time the global community is pursuing clean and safe energy options including wind and solar technologies Nigeria is doing back-flipping by choosing to embrace nuclear power which is neither clean nor safe nor cheap.

“We have not shown sufficient capacity to manage our hydro and gas-fired plants, yet we are plunging into the uncharted waters of nuclear power. This plan should stop immediately.

The Nigeria-Rosatom deal was brokered on May 30, 2016 on the sidelines of the VIII International Forum ATOMEXPO 2016 which held May 30 to June 1, 2016 in Moscow including talks of construction of a Centre for Nuclear Research and Technology in Sheba, Abuja.

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The Agreement provides for the construction of a Centre with the two-circuit pool-type reactor of the Russian design and a nominal power rating of 10 MW in Sheba-Abuja. Four nuclear plants that Rosatom will build will cost about $80billion, with the first expected to be ready by 2025. The other three will be ready by 2035.

“We restate our aversion to throwing nuclear plants into the energy mix in Nigeria. The explosion in Russia even with their expertise is enough indication that it is not the path to go. The details are scary enough. We reject the nuclear option for power generation because they are dangerous, and we do not have the capacity to manage the potential disaster a nuclear breach may cause.”

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