Nuclear Power in Nigeria? Another Crazy ‘Pole Vault’

Nuclear Power in Nigeria? Another Crazy ‘Pole Vault’

For many years the Government of Nigeria seems to be managed by a class of “capability pole vaulters”. Government officials tend ‘pole vault’ the nation into many projects they lack the capability, will or wherewithal to execute or sustain effectively. The latest pole vault project is the establishment of nuclear reactors as power plants to provide conatsnt electricity in Nigeria. This is a nation that cannot independently manage its uncomplicated thermal and hydroelectric power plants with any efficacy or credibility.

Besides weapons, particularly those that produce mass destruction, there is no other technology more dangerous to mankind and planet Earth than nuclear technology. The monumental risks involved are routinely played down to a minimum in the media to avoid public panic. One of the deceptions or sanitisations of the nuclear reactor accidents is that they do, in the majority of cases, produce zero fatalities. If the death toll is low or negligible then it is presented as having not been “dangerous” to human beings.

Anyone exposed to radioactive material will not die on the spot. Nuclear reactors are also sparsely populated work places because they are managed by highly automated technologies. The reactors are also heavily partitioned to prevent contamination and disasters in one area of the facility from spreading to another. In a nutshell, many cannot die in nuclear reactors. However, once nuclear material contaminates land, air or water it can cause fatal illnesses and serious deformities for both animals and plants at a much later time.

One wonders if the most technologically advanced nations of our age cannot prevent regular nuclear reactor accidents from happening, how could Nigerian technological culture that saturated with casualness and foriegn dependence achieve the feat? A rule of thumb produced by the Atomic Energy Agency of France is that innovation cannot eliminate human error in the management of nuclear reactors.

The Nigerian government has not lifted a finger to effect or demand the clean-up of the widespread insidious oil pollution that has blighted land, lives and livelihoods in the Niger Delta. The floods of 2012 in Nigeria relentlessly exposed the attitude and capability of the Nigerian government towards national disasters; they let it run it natural course. Radioactive isotopes stay around for millions of years and require intensive and precise clean ups that may have to be repeated several times at a very heavy cost. Is Nigeria ready for that?

Nuclear reactors are extremely high maintenance facilities, the technical demands are specified to be very precise and errors highly disastrous. As we have seen with thermal and hydroelectric plants in Nigeria, you cannot steal the money intended for their operations and maintenance and not have a major catastrophe on your hands with nuclear power stations.

Over 70% or all government technical maintenance costs in Nigeria were spent on power plants managed by the then National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) and the consequence is that today Nigeria has one of the very worst electricity supply deficiencies in the entire world but the executives, bureaucrats and politicians that oversaw the affairs of NEPA are individually very wealthy men. The political and bureaucratic culture necessary for the management of nuclear power cannot be corrupt.

The issue of nuclear waste disposal is one far beyond the best Nigerian capabilities. No nation or scientist(s) have produced a terminal solution to the management of nuclear waste. Repackaging in storage is method used to handle nuclear waste. Nuclear waste radiation will over time disintegrate any known metal alloy, plastic or concrete. What metal alloys, plastics or concrete do even Nigeria produce? Maybe the nuclear waste will be dumped in the creeks of the Niger Delta. Remember Chief Nana and the imported toxic waste (in Koko, Niger Delta) scandal that broke in 1987?

The costs of cleaning up or remedying nuclear accidents and disasters are often not disclosed for national security reasons but routinely run into the hundreds of millions of dollar, sometimes exceeding the billion dollar mark. Will Nigeria have an emergency budget for accidents and disasters that politicians and bureaucrats will not sniff away into foreign accounts? The foreign crude excess account would vapourise in the face of nuclear accidents.

Again, with thermal and hydroelectric power plants politicians, bureaucrats and their clients can look for technical partners (foreign firms that will do all the real work while the Nigerian official and promoter get a modest cut as a “local content”). Due to matters of high-level national security, the Nigerian governemnt will have to manage its reactors in a strictly “do for self” manner. Does Nigeria have the personnel and the work culture to operate its future nuclear reactors without frequent resort to foreign technical support?

The pole vaulters putting Nigeria forward for the development of nuclear reactors for electric power know in their intellects, imaginations, intuitions, memories and common sense that this is, at the present time and in the near future, a project beyond the capabilities of the nation but they cannot resist the “kickbacks”, “rents” or “promotion fees” etc. they can enrich themselves fabulously with at the expense of the nation.

Grimot Nane

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