Earlier this year, the federal government approved and launched Nigeria’s Energy Transition Plan (ETP), in a bid to achieve a net zero target by 2060. The ETP is aimed at focusing on the reduction of emissions across the various sectors, including the oil and power industries, to enhance economic growth and lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty. For the power sector, emission is projected to be reduced by substituting natural gas with solar energy. However, there has been no indication as to the enactment of nuclear for the generation of electricity and reduction of emission, despite it being one of the biggest sources of low-carbon electricity.
Nuclear energy is usually generated through fission, a process which involves splitting uranium atoms for producing energy. The released heat from this fission is used in creating steam that spins a turbine to produce electricity without any harmful effects. Comparing this process to other clean energy sources, a 1000 megawatt nuclear facility is said to require less than a square mile for its operations, with solar requiring at least seventy five times the space to produce the same amount of energy.
Lack of clarity in regulatory framework an issue for using nuclear power.
However, reports suggest that EFT’s omission of the nuclear source for energy generation might have been promised on some of the possible challenges posed in the deployment of nuclear power. One of these posed problems identified is the lack of a clear regulatory framework. Evidently, the regulatory structure for the usage of nuclear power in addressing the risks that potential investors might face remains unclear. There are different regulatory agencies with overtly overlapping responsibilities. One of these agencies include the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NNRA) which was established in 1995, under the Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Act. This agency commenced its responsibilities in 2001 and has since created regulations on nuclear energy like the Basic Lonizing Radiation Regulation.
It is also saddled with the implementation of the best international practices, as in the International Basic Safety Standard for Protection against Lonizing Radiation. Also, the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC) is also responsible for the technical and commercial aspects of the electricity sector. The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) is concerned with the oversight in enforcing the environmental regulations. Additionally, there are numerous treaty obligations like the IAEA Convention on Nuclear Safety. Importantly, the federal and state governments’ dichotomy in regulating the electricity sector is posed to disorganize the use and regulations of nuclear power. Thus, there is a significant need for clarifying the legal and regulatory framework of the nuclear power that needs to be considered in achieving the net zero goal by 2060.
Technologies like SMRs can help to reduce time and cost of construction.
Also, the power plant projects of nuclear power has long time horizons in terms of its testing and construction. However, advanced technologies such as Sealed Micro Reactors and Small Modular Reactors have been put in place to reduce the time and cost of construction. The limited capacity and flexibility of SMRs permits their on and off the grid deployment. Thus, the effectiveness in construction timing, as well as deployment ease of SMRs would be faster and a more efficient approach in reducing emission in the electricity industry.
Presently, Nigeria’s transmission infrastructure is insufficient to enhance the production of nuclear energy. With this power plant operating continuously in full capacity, the grid must have the capacity for transmitting sufficiently, the production capacity of the nuclear plant. Hence, immense investments must be directed to upgrading the existing facilities. Alternatively, a short to medium length project can also be enacted, with their mobility being an important tool in bridging the gap in infrastructures.
There is a need for an efficient structure for an integrated energy system.
Limited local maintenance experts for any nuclear power plant to be built will again cause a huge challenge safety-wise and as such, important trainings of the local workforce will be significant in the deployment of nuclear power in the country. So, the agenda focusing on nuclear power must also include huge training provisions. However, the advantages of introducing the nuclear electricity generation are huge and Nigeria must tap into these advantages. Thus, there is the need for an efficient structure for an integrated energy system for the success of the net zero plan.
Nigeria ETP: Website