From Uche Usim, Abuja
The Acting Chairman of the National Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC), Mr Muhktar Ali on Thursday disclosed that plans were afoot to invest in nuclear power plant technology due to its importance in driving industrialization.
He said that the Commission is dedicated to ensuring peaceful usage of nuclear energy and technology in boosting economic life of Nigeria; and not just for weaponry or war as many people think.
Speaking at a media parley in Abuja on the implementation of Nigeria’s National Nuclear Energy Programme and the benefits of Nigeria’s Technical Cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ali said there were loads of developmental benefits from developing the nuclear and atomic energy sub-sector.
He also assured anxious Nigerians that the nation’s nuclear reactor was safe, secure and operational, contrary to earlier insinuations that it had been stolen.
He, however, appealed to the Federal Government to inject huge funds into the parastatal, as insufficient financing has continued to stunt its growth and robbed the country enormous economic benefits that spring from nuclear products.
He said: “The stolen reactor story is not true. It’s available and working. There is security built around it and that is why people don’t know where it is.
“We’re eyeing nuclear energy. It is carbon free and environmentally friendly. It’s indeed a very clean energy source. No carbon emissions. No byproducts of combustion. It is a very reliable source of energy and can work for 24 yours and lasts up to 60 years. It will help us in creating jobs in Nigeria.
“It will other industries to spring up. Nuclear energy is a low-cost energy. Initially, it is capital intensive to establish but in terms of maintenance and operation, it’s very cheap.Nuclear fuel is not even about to be exhausted. We have so much to benefit from it”.
On challenges, Ali said that paucity of funds had been a major issue that has retarded the growth of the commission.
“In nuclear energy programmes, there are things you must have and have to do to attract investors, like carrying out feasibility studies and all that before you set up a nuclear power plant. It requires professionals to handle this and very capital intensive.
“So, we need special government intervention and we have sat down with government to discuss all these. If we have funding, it’ll help a whole lot and make us move faster.
“I should inform you that recently, United Arab Emirate proactively commissioned her first nuclear power plant which is already contributing to the national energy mix of the UAE. The constructions of additional nuclear power plant are already underway in the UAE.
You may recall that the UAE started her nuclear programme long after Nigeria had started but the public acceptance occasioned by good media reportage got the UAE to attain this milestone in relatively short time”, he explained.
The NAEC boss revealed that Nigeria’s technical cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), I wish to inform you that this relationship dates back to over 50 years.
He added that Nigeria has benefited immensely from various technical collaboration that it has with the IAEA.
He listed universities, hospitals, health agencies and over 30 Nigerian health professionals that have benefited from IAEA.
In his remarks at the event, Dr Davison Aminu of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) extolled NAEC for its unique operations, urging it widely to publicize its duties.
“Many Nigerians are ignorant of your work and it’s time to cement ties with NOA. Such collaboration will help stakeholders come in and make inputs” Aminu stated.
The NAEC, created by Act 46 of 1976 (as amended by Cap N91 LFN, 2004), is the national focal agency charged with the responsibility for the promotion of the development of atomic energy and for all matters relating to the peaceful use of atomic energy. NAEC was activated and became fully operational in July, 2006 under the aegis of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.