December 5, 2022

Scientists across the country, especially those in Itu and Geregu in Akwa Ibom and Kogi states respectively – host communities for the proposed twin-reactor nuclear power plants in Nigeria, are currently calling on the Federal Government to rescind the project and save the country from holocaust associated with nuclear disaster.

CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports that Russian-State-Owned Rosatom which signed the contract with Nigeria, is ready to take off without Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

“Nigeria does not have the capacity to manage a nuclear reactor crisis should anything go wrong. No country can guarantee that, not even the Russia; evidence have shown,” says Prof. Philip Njemanze, a Principal Investigator, NASA Johnson Space Center Neurolab, US.

Njemanze, the Medical Director, Chidicon Medical Centre, Owerri, Imo State, is reacting to the moves made by Nigerian government, which signed an agreement with Russian-State-owned Rosatom on October 8, 2017, to build nuclear power plants in the country to help its electricity crisis.

These moves, which were allegedly made without Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the consent of the host communities, Itu, Akwa Ibom State and Geregu, Kogi State, where the proposed nuclear power plants will be built, had met with stiff opposition by both the communities and experts across the country due to its known catastrophic disposition.

Njemanze like other experts, including environmentalists, are calling for its abrogation, saying the project is capable of wiping out the entire human inhabitation of those states and other African countries should there be a nuclear plant accident as in the case of Chernobyl.

They intensified their calls following the latest Nuclear Plant Explosion in Russia, the prototype for Nigeria, which snuffed out lives from five Russian scientists, who were servicing the plant at the time of the incident and left three others with severe burn.

Njemanze insists that no country has the capacity of guaranteeing safety of the nuclear reactor accident, stating that the Russians who supposed to do the job had had a blow of nuclear reactor crisis including Japan, the nuclear power plant authority.

He maintained that the agreement, which is expected to permit Russia to construct and operate the nuclear power plants in Itu and Geregu, is as good as giving death warrants to all Nigerians due to its associated hazard.

According to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the project will be financed by Rosatom, under build, own, operate and transfer (BOT) basis and then transfer the cost to Nigeria to pay back.

It is estimated at about $20 billion, each of the four reactors, while four of them amount to $80 billion which Nigeria will pay back, implying that the country will continue to service the debt (loan) for the next generation, if Nigeria goes on with the project.

By the way, a nuclear power plant is a thermal power station in which the heat source is a nuclear reactor. As is typical of thermal power stations, heat is used to generate steam that drives a steam turbine connected to a generator that produces electricity.

Sunday Telegraph learnt that Itu and Geregu are twin nuclear reactors. The idea of a nuclear power plants in the country came into play as an effort to find lasting solution to the shortage of power supply in the country.

Those who signed the agreement meant well for the country and perhaps didn’t know what disaster lurking for the country should there be a nuclear accident where the impact will be more than the impact of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.

According to the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC), the sites were selected for the construction of two nuclear reactors after due considerations, saying that preliminary licensing of the approved sites was given in 2016 from the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA).

The fear that the world had witnessed 99 nuclear reactor accidents of which Russia is among the worst hit continues to cast shadows to this multi-billion dollars project.

“Nuclear crisis in Japan has revived fears over the safety of nuclear power and the potential danger posed to public health when things go wrong,” Njemanze recounted.

On August 9, 2019, in the Arkhangelsk region, an explosion triggered radiation levels to rise near Nyonoksa, which was later confirmed by Russia’s nuclear energy agency as an accident while testing an isotope power source for a liquid-fuelled rocket engine.

It was later learnt that five nuclear scientists lost their lives in the incident while three others suffered from burns. Russian authorities ordered the evacuation of the village close to the blast site, suggesting grave dangers due to nuclear radiation.

The agency in a report confirmed: “On August 8, Russian scientists were working on miniaturised sources of nuclear energy when a rocket engine exploded. The explosion killed five people and caused radiation readings in neighbouring cities to spike to 20 times above their normal level in half an hour.”

While the Russian Defence Ministry said the explosion took place during testing of a rocket engine, the country’s nuclear agency, Rosatom, countered in its report that the incident happened during testing of an isotope power source in a liquid propulsion system.

Recall that Rosatom is the corporation that the Nigerian government is partnering to add nuclear energy to the nation’s energy mix. The decision and the process has been criticised by civil society and communities in Itu, Akwa Ibom State that have warned that sitting nuclear plants in their communities does not have their support.

The Environmental Rights Action/Friend of the Earth International (ERA/FoEN), in a statement issued in Lagos, said the current incident should send a clear signal to the Nigerian government to back out of any further nuclear experimentation, which the MoU it signed with Rosatom to build nuclear plants in Nigeria.

Under the arrangement, Rosatom will build nuclear power plants in Kogi and Akwa Ibom though the host communities in Geregu and Itu respectively, say they were not consulted before the choice of their communities for the project.

ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “Once again, we have another reason to ask the Nigeria government to halt the nuclear misadventure spearheaded by the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) without the consent of Nigerians.”

Oluwafemi explained that it was very disturbing that at a time the global community is pursuing clean and safe energy options, including wind and solar technologies, Nigeria is doing back-flipping by choosing to embrace nuclear power which is neither clean nor safe nor cheap.

He continued: “We have not shown sufficient capacity to manage our hydro and gas-fired plants yet we are plunging into the uncharted waters of nuclear power. This plan should stop immediately.

“The Nigeria-Rosatom deal was brokered on 30 May 2016 on the sidelines of the VIII International Forum ATOMEXPO 2016 which held May 30-June 1, 2016 in Moscow including talks of construction of a Center for Nuclear Research and Technology in Sheba-Abuja.

“The Agreement provides for the construction of a Center with the two-circuit pool-type reactor of the Russian design and a nominal power rating of 10 MW in Sheba-Abuja. Four nuclear plants that Rosatom plans to build will cost about $80billion, with the first expected to be ready by 2025. The other three will be ready by 2035.

“We restate our aversion to throwing nuclear plants into the energy mix in Nigeria. The explosion in Russia despite their expertise is enough indication that it is not the path to go. The details are scary enough.

“We reject the nuclear option for power generation because they are dangerous and we do not have the capacity to manage the potential disaster a nuclear breach may cause.”

In a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari by the Council on World Peace, Global Prolife Alliance, titled: ‘Help Avert Nuclear Holocaust in Nigeria at Russia-Africa Summit,’ which other African leaders were copied, the group called for the project’s repeal.

The group said, “We want to alert you on the potential danger of a ‘Nuclear Holocaust in Nigeria,’ should the Russian-built Itu Nuclear Power Plant in Akwa Ibom, South-South Nigeria be allowed to go ahead…

“We prolife, environmental and religious groups in Nigeria, collectively oppose the construction of a nuclear power plant in Nigeria. The recent nuclear accident in Russia and the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion is a reminder of the dangers of nuclear explosions.

“WHO estimates that over 600,000 people in close vicinity suffered severe radiation induced cancer and leukemia in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion.

“Experts taking clues from the Chernobyl nuclear explosion experience and given the dense vegetation, vast network of rivers and intense rainfall in Southern Nigeria, put the estimate of people to be severely affected across Africa at 25 million people.”

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), ecosystem impact of the Soviet built Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion in 1986 affected 200,000 square kilometers of Europe.

The group continued: “The extent of the deposition varied depending on whether it was raining when contaminated air masses passed. Most of the radioactive isotopes deposited within 100 kilometers of the plant but were carried to thousands of kilometers away by wind, rainfall and rivers.

“Talking from the experience of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, the Itu Nuclear Power Plant explosion is projected to affect the entire ecosystem of West and Central Africa, with spill over to North and East Africa along to Nile flow regions into the Nile Delta and to the Mediterranean across Europe.

“The entire oil-fields of Nigeria, the main source of national revenue would not be accessible by humans under normal conditions. The Nuclear Holocaust would be a hundred times more than Hiroshima & Nagasaki and several times the effects of Chernobyl nuclear explosion.

“The entire ethnic groups and tribes of South-South, South East and South West Nigeria would be wiped out as a people. We have for long argued that the proposed Nuclear Plant project is the most expensive in the world ever.

“At $80 billion, it costs over 30 times the cost of building alternative energy sources of Solar and Hydropower.

“The recent Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis by Lazard, a leading financial advisory and asset management firm suggest that the cost per kilowatt (KW) for utility-scale solar is less than $1000, while the comparable cost per KW for nuclear power is between $6,500 and $12,250.

“This means that nuclear power is nearly 10 times more expensive to build than utility-scale solar on cost per KW basis. Even by world standards, it is unclear why the Itu Nuclear Plant is overpriced.

“Lazard finds that on the average utility solar takes 9 months to build while nuclear plant may take 69 months (or about 6 years) to build. It is therefore, of great national emergency for all religious leaders, social and human rights activists, and all patriotic Nigerians to advocate for a halt of the construction of Itu Nuclear Power station.

“We have advocated a new power architecture for Nigeria that includes clean energy sources of solar and hydropower. The upcoming Russia-Africa Forum has provided us another arena for advocacy to avert a Nuclear Holocaust in Nigeria.

“We enlist your support to advocate for a stop of the nuclear power project and for a change to clean energy sources of solar and hydropower.”

More so, 250 other Environmental Rights Groups in Nigeria have also registered their opposition for the construction of the Itu Nuclear power by Rosatom.

The recent events at the nuclear military site in Russia underscore the grave risks involved with nuclear accidents.

“Iranian nuclear power plant is the biggest but it cost $10 billion and how come ours cost $20 billion? This has to be investigated for corrupt practices but this is not even the point, the point is that we can’t use our money to buy death. There is no different between the electricity supplied by nuclear power plant and that of hydro. So, why nuclear? Njemanze insisted.

Speaking on the differences and performances of the different sources of energy, Noel Orekhma, a power expert, said nuclear power stations top the list of power plants that can produce massive amounts of energy.

According to him, low-enriched Uranium pellets are loaded into the nuclear power plant. Then the Uranium atom is split creating the nuclear fission. This process releases huge amounts of energy which also come with its adverse effects.

He said: “The advantage of a nuclear power plant is that they do not need to burn anything to create energy. Hence, the carbon emission from a nuclear power plant is very low. But the major disadvantages of a nuclear power plant are the nuclear waste that it creates and the steep cost of building one.

“The wastes are very destructive that sometimes, it will be unnecessary building such plants known for causing serious damage to the country and environment. Unlike nuclear power plants, hydroelectric power plants are one of the most effective and eco-friendliest of all power plants.

“In a hydroelectric power plant, electricity is granted from water. In detail, the potential energy of water is converted to electrical energy. When water is made to fall from a height on to a turbine, it spins the armature which is connected to a generator.

“When the turbine spins, the generator starts to produce electricity. This electricity is then routed to all the different substations to distribute the power. The world’s largest power plant is a Hydro-electric power plant called The Three Gorges Dam.

“The dam creates an astounding 22,5000MW of power.It achieves this feat by using 34 power generators. The dam is so huge that after its construction, the dam single-handedly slowed down the earth’s rotation.”

However, Sunday Telegraph learnt that with the advancements in energy generation, the world now has more than just thermal, nuclear and hydroelectric power plants. They are called non-conventional power plants. These power stations are capable of producing clean energy (or Green Energy).

Solar power plant is one of them, and it uses the energy of the sun to produce electricity. Solar panels capture the sunlight using photovoltaic cells and convert it into electricity.

“Today, an increasing number of countries are looking towards solar energy to offset their dependence on fossil fuels. Tengger Desert Solar Park is currently the world’s largest solar power plant in terms of capacity. It is capable of producing 1,547MW of energy,” Ajanaku Felix, who works with Heinrich Foundation.

Meanwhile, over the years, the world had seen a steady incline in the demand for energy all over the world. And moving forward, there is no sign of this pattern slowing down anytime soon! The yearly rise in pollution levels is a testament to the alarming rate of fossil fuel consumption.

What the world can do, though, is move away from carbon-heavy sources of power like fossil fuels and embrace renewable energy sources. There have been massive efforts poured into this vision by different companies and countries to make this vision a reality. In the coming years, we can hope to see more green energy power plants rather than the CO2 factories.

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