In early August, Tanzania made global headlines when Dr Doto Biteko, the country’s minister for minerals, unveiled the national plans to join the elite nuclear energy club.
This journey started almost exactly 20 years prior to the announcement. In April 2003, the country’s parliament enacted a law permitting the use of uranium to produce energy. Uranium is the crucial element in the manufacturing of nuclear fuel.
Tanzania consistently ranks among top 20 countries with largest uranium reserves.
The Mkuju River Project in southern Tanzania is one of the primary uranium projects in the country. It is estimated to be one of the most significant uranium deposits in the world.
The East African nation’s energy mix is quite diverse, combining various sources to meet the country’s energy needs. Hydropower and natural gas account for roughly 35% each.
Heavy fuel oil constitutes another 20%. Finally, the last 10% are spread equally between renewables, including wind and solar power, and biomass like firewood.
Tanzania is blessed with mighty rivers providing ideal conditions for hydropower dams and significant natural gas reserves. However, in the long run these are dwindling. Gas like any fossil fuel will run out eventually, while as climate change progresses the water level in rivers becomes less and less predictable.
The understanding of coal and gas as sources that are not sustainable and have a negative impact on the environment have been widespread throughout state authorities since 1990s.
When assessing the various power generation technologies, nuclear power emerges with the least external costs concerning damage to both human health and the environment.
At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that up to 50 million out of 60 million living in the country have no access to electricity.
This means a significant portion of the population, particularly in rural and remote areas, still lacks reliable access to electricity and continues relying on firewood as a source of heat.
Tanzania’s total power installed capacity is 1,605 megawatts, which is less than a modern two-unit nuclear power plant.
As the local population is booming so is the demand for swift economic development.
Tanzania is betting on expanding its mining sector in various regions of the country, including Namtumbo (Mkuju), Bahi, Galapo, Minjingu, Mbulu, Simanjiro, Lake Natron, Manyoni, Songea, Tunduru, Madaba, and Nachingwea.
The successful adoption of nuclear technologies could expedite uranium exploration, leading to Tanzania becoming a regional mining powerhouse.
Energy is the backbone of any strong development. For industrializing countries in need of a reliable and cost-effective source of energy, nuclear is an attractive choice.
It being a low carbon option as well is equally important.
Nuclear power stands as a promising solution to provide Tanzania with a reliable source of clean, base load energy, circumventing the challenges posed by coal, oil, and natural gas.
These traditional fuel sources not only raise environmental concerns but also logistical issues, demanding a constant supply of fuel.
The appeal of nuclear power lies in its steadfastness and predictability within the electricity sector.
Tanzania’s relatively small grid presents a challenge for conventional large scale nuclear power plans.
Either the grid would need to increase to accommodate a large unit, or, alternatively, other, smaller nuclear power plant options would need to be explored.
An alternative worth considering involves investing in small modular reactors (SMRs), heralded as one of the most promising emerging technologies in the realm of nuclear power.
SMRs are capable of generating electric power up to 300 megawatts per unit, approximately a third of what a traditional reactor produces.
Their key components can be manufactured in a controlled factory environment and then conveniently transported to specific sites, facilitating an easier construction process.
A floating SMR could be a particularly interesting option for a country with a long coastline like Tanzania.
While other nuclear companies make promises about delivering their floating nuclear power plants sometime in the future, Russian nuclear giant Rosatom stands apart by having operated its floating power plant since late 2019.
The Akademik Lomonosov project stands as a testament to Rosatom’s technical expertise and dedication to providing sustainable, efficient energy solutions.
The knowledge gained from this project has established a sturdy foundation for future advancements in floating nuclear power technology.
Rosatom’s optimized floating nuclear power plants offer a unique advantage in their mobility, enabling strategic power generation along coastlines, near major ports, and with the flexibility to scale up as needed.
This groundbreaking innovation now allows for efficient power distribution from the nearest port to the end user, reducing transmission losses and bolstering the reliability of electricity supply to highly industrialized and densely populated regions.
A floating nuclear plant not only supplies clean power but also provides affordable base load power, crucial for industries like mining, manufacturing, and agriculture that heavily depend on a consistent and uninterrupted power supply for their operations.
This base load energy availability plays a pivotal role in attracting foreign investments and fostering economic development. Investors seek a dependable energy infrastructure to establish and expand their operations. A consistent supply of base load energy ensures uninterrupted business operations, meeting production targets, and maintaining competitiveness in the global market.
Furthermore, base load energy significantly improves the quality of life for Tanzanians by powering essential services in hospitals, schools, and residential areas.
In the end, the question is not whether Tanzania needs nuclear energy but rather whether it needs energy at all. A country seeking prosperity for its citizens needs energy.
If a country needs energy, then it should pay attention to an energy source generating cost-effective electricity that is clean and reliable. It just happens to be nuclear power