Rosatom to help Algeria in the race to build Africa’s first modern nuclear plant

Another country will enter the race to build Africa’s second nuclear power station this week when Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov arrives in the country to hold talks on economic co-operation.

Algeria has been planning to build a nuclear plant since 2001, when President Abdelaziz Bouteflika first discussed the matter with his Russian opposite number, Vladimir Putin.  At that time, the aim to was to commission a plant by 2018 to prepare for the "post-oil" age.  

World Nuclear News reports that in February 2009 Algeria announced that it had put that date back to 2020, and added that might build a further unit every five years thereafter. In 2013 the target became 2025, and a Nuclear Engineering Institute was established to bulid up the country’s nuclear skills base.

Ahead of the talks, Lavrov gave an interview to Algerian newspaper L’Expression, which the Russian foreign ministry published on its website on Sunday, 28 February.

At present there is only one nuclear power station on the African continent: the 1.9GW Koeberg nuclear power station near Cape Town in South Africa, which was built in the 1980s

During the interview Lavrov was asked what progress had been made since then. He replied that an intergovernmental agreement on nuclear energy had been signed in September 2014, and that a coordinating committee would meet this week to discuss the implementation of the agreement.

Lavrov said the agenda would include such issues as "the possibility of building a Russian-designed nuclear power plant in the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, development of Algeria’s nuclear infrastructure, and non-energy use of nuclear technology, for instance, in medicine".

The intergovernmental agreement, which was signed by Sergey Kiriyenko, the director general of Rosatom, Youcef Yousfi, Algeria’s energy minister, provides for the design, construction, operation and servicing of nuclear power plants and research reactors. All technologies, materials and equipment will be transferred to Algeria and will be used exclusively for peaceful purposes, according to Rosatom.

According to World Nuclear News, Algeria has operated two research reactors since 1995, at Draria and Ain Ouessara. The 15MW Es-Salam plant is a Chinese heavy water reactor that started up in 1992, the Nur 1 MWe pool unit was built by INVAP of Argentina in the 1980s.

At present there is only one nuclear power station on the African continent: the 1.9GW Koeberg nuclear power station (pictured) near Cape Town in South Africa, which was built in the 1980s to a French design, and which is the mainstay of power generation in the Western Cape.

South Africa is presently planning a full-scale nuclear building programme with the aim of supplying 22% of the country’s energy by 2030, with the first plant coming online in 2023.

Rosatom has made the running in concluding power station deals with African countries. Egypt has also signed a cooperation agreement with the state-owned nuclear engineer with the aim of building a plant at Dabaa in the north of the country by 2023.

Ghana in West Africa is also considering building a plant, and it has concluded a deal with Rosatom for a 1.2GW facility.

Nigeria signed an agreement with Russia to cooperate on the design, construction, operation and decommissioning of a facility in 2012. A further three nuclear plants are planned, taking total capacity to 4.8GW by 2035, with each facility costing $20bn.

The first Nigerian plant will be operational in 2025.

Senegal, Tunisia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Morocco and the Sudan have publically discussed the option of developing nuclear power industries, as have Niger and Namibia, two countries with small economies but large deposits of uranium.

Photograph: Koeberg nuclear power station, which houses Africa’s only utility-scale reactors (Bjorn Rudner/Eskom)

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