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Nigeria ‘secretly signs’ $20bn nuclear power contract with Russian company

The Nigerian government has signed a multi-billion dollar contract with Rosatom, a Russian nuclear company, to establish four nuclear plants in the country.

If completed, the power plants are expected to contribute a combined 4,800 megawatts to Nigeria’s electricity generation by the year 2035.

According to a special report by Premium Times, the $20 billion (about N6 trillion) contract was signed at a meeting between officials of Rosatum and the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission, NAEC, which held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in October 2017.

“Anton Moskvin, Vice President for Marketing and Business Development, Rosatom Overseas (a subsidiary of Rosatom), and Simon Mallam, Chairman of NAEC, signed the agreement on behalf of Rosatom and Nigeria respectively,” the report read.

“The development of nuclear technologies will allow Nigeria to strengthen its position as one of the leading countries of the African continent,” Moskvin was quoted as saying.

“These are the projects of a large scale and strategic importance, that will determine the relationship between our two countries in the long term.”

HOW SAFE IS NUCLEAR POWER

Experts say Nuclear Power exploration has been problematic all over the world, much less in an under-developed country like Nigeria.

“First thing that comes to mind when nuclear is mentioned is radioactive wastes, our concern is, judging by the experience in fossil fuels, that we might be heading towards an environmental disaster,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, Deputy Director of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN).

“We don’t have confidence in using nuclear energy to solve our energy needs, there are safer alternatives like solar and wind.”

Similarly, Lia Simes, a Finnish journalist, is of the opinion that Nigeria’s electricity is very unstable to support a nuclear reactor.

“Nuclear power plants need good electricity grid – they cannot use the electricity they produce, but they need a lot of external electricity and so you have to constantly – non-stop – feed electricity to the reactor,” Simes said.

“It is risky, dirty and expensive. Nobody knows how the wastes will be managed in the future.”

The most recent nuclear power accident took place in 2011 in Fukushima, Japan. Following the disaster, Japanese authorities shut down the country’s 54 nuclear power plants.

As of 2013, the Fukushima site remains highly radioactive, with about 160,000 people forced to evacuate from their homes; they still living in temporary housing, and some land will be unfarmable for centuries.

Experts say the difficult cleanup job will take 40 or more years, and cost tens of billions of dollars.

Another cause for concern is the secrecy that surrounds the signing of the contract agreement, as those who should know say the Nigerian government has intentionally withheld necessary information about the issue.

“How was the choice of Rosatom arrived at?” queried Philip Jakpor, Spokesperson of the ERA/FoEN.

“Where will the funds to build the $20 billion nuclear plant come from?”

“No media or civil society consultation on this project. From the little research we have done, even Rosatom have a very bad safety record,” added Oluwafemi

NAEC SAYS NO SAFETY CONCERNS

When Premium Times contacted Simon Mallam, Chairman of NAEC, he said there were no safety concerns regarding the nuclear project, explaining that the only challenge facing the agency was paucity of funds.

“The issue is not that they (radiation) are dangerous to workers or people living there, radiation sources will not fly, but the key thing is to keep the source in its particular condition,” Mallam said.

“We are gradually improving and we are hoping that with releases of more funds, we’ll be able to do one or two things.”

He added that “our overhead cost in the last two, three years is less than N12 million monthly, for all the headquarters and all these (nuclear) centres, you have to manage it”.

“Last year (2016) we had an overhead of only eight months, this year (2017) we have had only six months. So there is no magic we can do.”

Mallam also said Nigeria recently signed a similar nuclear power contract with a Chinese company and that NAEC will study both contracts to know which of them would be more beneficial to the country.

Read the complete report here.

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