Africa is a huge continent with vast resources, most of whose countries have a weakly developed economy. This is a huge potential field of activity for more developed countries wishing to profitably invest money and technology. Recently, China has been the most active in the continent. The New Silk Road project, within which the PRC plans to connect all African countries by a network of railways, will ensure its influence on the continent for many years. In addition, China is investing in numerous African energy, oil and social projects.
However, not only the PRC intends to gain a foothold in Africa. Russia is also interested in developing the enormous potential of this region. The establishment of close economic ties between the Russian Federation and the countries of Africa is helped by tried and tested means – Russia’s highly developed atomic technologies.
Atomic energy concerns all modern developing states, not just African ones. The fact is that the development of an economy in our time is unthinkable without sufficient electricity. However, traditional energy, based on the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels, is facing increasing challenges. Global warming and pollution of the atmosphere require that humanity limit it. In December 2015, the World Conference of the United Nations was held in Paris, at which the Agreement was adopted, which obliges countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and begin the transition to environmentally friendly technologies. In November 2016, a report by UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) was issued. The document states that in order to combat global warming, by 2030, it is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a much greater extent than is stipulated in the Paris Climate Agreement. Until now, such restrictions have extended mainly to developed countries, but it is possible that developing countries will also have to think about ecology. Thus, all countries wishing to have plenty of electricity should think about other sources of energy that are not associated with the combustion of hydrocarbons and are safer for the environment. The most reliable of them for today is AE.
Back in distant 2009, Russia concluded an agreement on cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear energy with Nigeria. They then started talking about the construction of an atomic power station in Nigeria. The framework agreement for the construction of the first Nigerian nuclear power plant by Russian specialists was signed in 2012. In autumn 2015, a preliminary signing of the Russian-Nigerian agreement on cooperation in the development, construction, operation and decommissioning of a multifunctional nuclear research center on Nigerian soil was held. Now the last preparations are being made, and by the end of 2017, according to representatives of Rosatom, the construction of the nuclear power plant will be launched.
Another African state that is actively moving towards the creation of a national AE is Kenya. Its government has drawn up a long-term plan according to which the Kenyan energy-generating capacity should increase by almost 9 times by 2033. Kenya intends to launch its first nuclear reactor by 2025. For help in this new enterprise, the country has turned to several states – China, the Republic of Korea and Russia. Since one reactor is obviously not enough to implement Kenya’s grandiose plans, there will be enough work to go around for everyone.
In September 2015, the Kenyan Nuclear Energy Bureau signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese nuclear company Guanghe. China intends to interest Kenya in its recent invention – the Hualong-1 reactor, which is the pride of Chinese nuclear scientists and has already attracted the attention of many countries. Also, the Celestial Empire promises Kenya assistance in operating the reactor, supplying nuclear fuel and recycling waste.
In May 2016, the Atomexpo 2016 forum was held in Moscow, during which the government of Kenya signed a memorandum of understanding with Rosatom. After that, it was decided that a Russian-Kenyan working group for developing joint projects would be created.
In the same month, Kenya signed a similar document with the Republic of Korea.
The Russian side is not bothered by Kenya’s cooperation with China and Korea. As mentioned above, there is enough work for everyone. In addition, joint work in African countries fully corresponds to the intention of Rosatom and the Chinese nuclear company CNNC to jointly build nuclear power plants in third-party countries. Negotiations on such cooperation have been ongoing since 2015.
In March 2017, “Kenya Nuclear Week”, a conference-exhibition, was held in Nairobi and attended by important members of the Kenyan government, representatives of the IAEA and guests from Ghana and Nigeria. Representatives of Rosatom also took an active part in it. Experts predict the early onset of water shortages in Africa. Water and electricity will become the chief resources, and the Russian VVER-1200, a new generation reactor supplemented by a desalination system, will help to extract both. At the conference, experts from Rosatom demonstrated everything they could offer to developing countries wishing to acquire AE. All aspects were touched upon, from the appropriate placement of stations to the development of regulatory and legal documentation and training of personnel. For all countries wishing to cooperate, Rosatom provides an opportunity to send their students to Russian universities and get their own qualified staff. A lot the conference participants’ attention was attracted by the Russian stand with information about the VVER-1200 reactor. According to the developers, it is special for modern and extremely effective security system, thanks to which this reactor could endure the impact of the elements, similar to the one that led to the tragedy at the Fukushima-1 station in 2011.
As is well-known, Russia is one of the world leaders in AE. Its experience and authority attracts many foreign partners. According to representatives of Rosatom, the Russian company plans to spread to many countries of Central and South Africa, including South Africa, Ghana, Zambia, Uganda, etc. Moreover, there is a project to create a unified international energy system based on future nuclear power plants in these countries. If these plans succeed, Russia will gain a huge influence and will stay in Africa for a long time.
Dmitry Bokarev, expert politologist, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”