ZAMBIA is moving in the direction of developing its capacity to eventually operate a nuclear power plant of at least 2,000 megawatts within the next 10 to 15 years, says Secretary to Cabinet Dr Roland Msiska.
Msiska disclosed that while there was currently no mining of Uranium in Zambia, exploration was being conducted in the southern part of the country.
Speaking when he opened a three-day international conference on enhancing Africa’s capacity on nuclear security, safety and safeguards at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka on Wednesday, Dr Msiska said the conference was essentially intended to provide public awareness on nuclear science and technology programmes in Zambia.
Dr Msiska, who was represented by Cabinet Office permanent secretary Bernard Kapasa, indicated that the mention of the word “nuclear” generally aroused negative reactions from many people.
“Surprisingly, even the most enlightened people in Africa view nuclear science and technology as something dangerous [and] only associated with atrocities and environmental disasters. Many people, when asked about their feeling on nuclear science, respond with puzzled expressions and impulsive responses, churning out the words Fukushima, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima. These sentiments are in most cases based on negative prejudices and not on empirical knowledge or data,” Dr Msiska said.
“[But] nuclear power plants operate around the globe securely, safely and reliably, thereby providing stability to the power grid. It is because of these reasons that Zambia is moving in the direction of developing its capacity to eventually operate a nuclear power plant of at least 2,000 megawatts within the next 10 to 15 years.”
He said one of the issues which needed urgent attention with regards to Africa’s nuclear science technology agenda would be to deal with the negative perception of nuclear science.
“Although empirical data shows that few people have been negatively affected by nuclear applications, most people still view nuclear science as something inherently dangerous. In Zambia, the Patriotic Front manifesto states as follows: “In the next five years, the Patriotic Front government shall promote investment in alternative energy sources such as thermal electricity generation from coal and nuclear reactors.” It is in this context that His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia, during his inauguration, announced that Zambia will pursue nuclear technology and its applications as part of a diversified sustainable energy mix to power Zambia’s economy. Efforts are already under way in addressing this matter,” he said.
Dr Msiska recalled also how Zambia and many other countries in the sub-region “recently suffered critical and devastating power deficits arising from low water levels in natural water bodies caused by the El Nino effects.”
“To avert future crises of this nature, Africa needs to actively move away from reliance on natural phenomenon if we are to attain sustainable economic development…. Apart from electricity generation, nuclear technology offers Zambia a unique and exciting opportunity to begin to actualise the Smart Zambia mantra by using nuclear science and technology in the non-power sectors such as medicine, agriculture and industry,” he underscored.
“Nuclear science is not populist rhetoric but it is meant to cater for the needs of the future. The nuclear science and technology programme is aimed at creating capacities, synergies as well as knowhow to ensure that Africa benefits from the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology.”
And Dr Msiska pointed out that emerging interests for uranium mining among southern African States had been noted with “Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Namibia being in the forefront.”
“In Zambia there are currently no uranium mining activities. However, exploration of uranium is being conducted in the southern part of the country. Due to an increase in uranium mining and exploration in the southern region of Africa, it is important to increase capacity in monitoring and regulating of transportation of uranium materials….” said Dr Msiska.
Radiation Protection Authority executive director Boster Siwila said radiation sources were being used in different sectors of the economy, which included health sector, industry, research, mining and agriculture.
“We should take note that despite the beneficial uses of radiation sources, there may be some negative effects which require serious safeguards – international, local safeguards, security and safety. Due to the benefits of use of nuclear technology, many countries in Africa and globally, which have embarked on this route, have to adhere to international standards and international regime on safety and security,” explained Siwila.
“Zambia has embarked on this route and therefore, nuclear energy is being part of the diversified energy mix for the development of the country and various aspects of the economy. This conference gives an opportunity to us as a regulator and as a host to share a lot of notes on the nuclear path for this country and on the assurance that the regulator is up to the task to ensure that safety, security and safeguards mechanisms are put in place for nuclear energy activities in the country.”