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China, Russia nuclear deals could lead to problems in East Africa-Experts

By Timothy Sibasi, timothy.sibasi@alleastafrica.com

KAMPALA – Japan has threatened to put cracks in China’s own plans to construct a multibillion Nuclear Energy Plant in the pearl of Africa country: Uganda.

The Chinese government is reported to have ordered a halt on further nuclear approvals until a thorough inspection of its existing reactors and construction sites is made.

According to experts, the latter puts Uganda’s nuclear deals with China and Russia in balance following Japan’s earthquake and tsunami on March 11 this year.

Meanwhile, China has been seeking to build a nuclear plant in the East African country of Uganda. According reliable sources from the Chinese embassy in Uganda, with China wants to help build nuclear power generation in East Africa, uranium mining and investment company IBI Corp said in a statement after meeting Chinese officials in Beijing.

UNDIMMED APPETITE

Hence, the development has shed light China’s undimmed appetite for overseas nuclear expansions despite the Japanese nuclear crisis this year.

IBI, which has uranium-prospective land in Uganda, said its director, A.J. Coffman, who held an “encouraging meeting… with the relatively new umbrella organization overseeing China’s research and development of Generation 3 and Generation 4 nuclear power plant designs.”

“At the meeting, this entity expressed an interest in pursuing nuclear power plant construction in East Africa.” it said.

China, in the early stages of a massive nuclear power expansion aims to help meet the demands of its power-guzzling economy and to weaken the grip of coal as the dominant source of fuel.

Analysts predict that China’s ambitious domestic nuclear expansion is widely expected to march ahead, although talk of the sector growing to 80-90 gigawatts by 2020 which may give it a way to a target of 70-75 GW. Still, that is a giant leap from China’s existing nuclear capacity, which amounted to 10.8 GW, at the end of 2010.

Whereas China plans to put a nuclear energy plant in Uganda some of China’s new other proposed plants around the world  will use “third generation” reactors, using technology from France’s Areva and U.S.-based Westinghouse, part of Toshiba Corp. But later their technology will be transferred to China, enabling it to build third generation plants in its own right.

Currently there are no nuclear plants in East Africa, and only one country on the continent, South Africa, has nuclear power. China’s move to fix one in the Perl of Africa puts at the center of being a power to reckon with in East and Central Africa.

China already has some early-stage interests in uranium in Africa. The overseas arm of China National Nuclear Corp has a 37.2 percent stake in a uranium mine in Niger that began producing on December 30, 2010, as well as exploration projects in Namibia and Zimbabwe.

UGANDA-RUSSIA

Architectural design of Chinese proposed nuclear plant in Uganda.

Uganda and Russia Tuesday signed a pact on development of uranium into nuclear power for “peaceful purposes.”

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Uganda’s State minister for Minerals Simon D’Ujanga and Russia’s deputy director-general of Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation, Nikolai Spasskiy in Moscow.  The signing was made at the side-lines of ATOMEXPO, an international exhibition of the nuclear industry.

The annual expo since 2009 brings together several players to discuss matters related to the nuclear energy industry.

“The Memorandum is the first agreement in the area of peaceful uses of atomic energy to be signed between the countries. It envisages the bilateral cooperation in wide range of spheres: development of nuclear infrastructure in Uganda, programmes for raising public awareness of nuclear technologies and its application, radioisotopes and radiation technologies’ application in industrial, medical, agricultural sectors,” reads a statement issued by Rosatom’s press team.

Uganda shifts its nuclear energy deals with Russia.

Uranium extraction Rosatom is a Russian state-owned nuclear corporation which runs uranium extraction and production and other nuclear activities in Russia and globally.

Nuclear discussions with Rosatom commenced last October shortly after the launch of the Uganda-Russian Joint Permanent Commission, an inter-governmental framework for economic, scientific and technical cooperation.

The discussions followed a meeting between Rosatom’s regional vice-president for Sub-Saharan Africa Viktor Polikarpov and President Museveni on providing professional training in nuclear infrastructure development.

Other areas of collaboration under the pact include, radiological and physical security, fundamental and applied researches, human resource training, and nuclear research centres based on multifunctional research reactors.

“The joint working group of Russia and Uganda will define the scope of work for implementation of the initiatives mentioned.

The parties agreed to cooperate in the feasibility of implementing common projects referred to,” the statement further reads.

The Uganda-Russia agreement comes barely a month after Uganda’s ministry of energy team led by Undersecretary Prisca Boonabantu travelled to China at the invitation of Zhonguan Engineering Corporation (CZEC), a subsidiary of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), as part of the ongoing discussions with Beijing to help Kampala develop peaceful nuclear at about $3 billion (UShs11 trillion).

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