Senior Presidential Advisor, Mr. Yaw Osafo-Maafo, has underscored the imperative of making nuclear energy affordable to catalyse its widespread adoption as the continent continues its exploration of nuclear energy as a means to meet the burgeoning energy demands and secure a long-term energy future.
Nuclear energy offers a dependable and sustainable power source, which is pivotal for driving economic growth and enhancing the standard of living for the continent’s population.
It is against this background that Mr. Osafo-Maafo said: “At the end of the day, if you produce energy and people cannot afford it, then there is a problem. So, you must always look at the end of the tunnel – affordability”.
This remark comes at a time when some energy experts estimate that roughly 600 million Africans still lack access to electricity, while expressing concern that without substantial changes, achieving universal electricity access throughout the continent by 2040 may prove elusive.
Mr. Osafo-Maafo was speaking at the first-ever US-Africa Summit on Nuclear Energy opening session in Accra, and said: “There is no better period to strengthen our development agenda than now, when the world is grappling with issues of climate change which have potentially dire effects on the African continent”.
Against this backdrop, he noted that for the continent to develop its natural resources, expand its economy and provide for its citizens, it needs international cooperation to develop a dense, green energy technology.
However, he stressed it is important to adopt the latest cost-alternative technology with a shorter construction time, and also one that is amenable to easy grid integration. This, he said, will maximise the benefits of African countries adopting nuclear technology.
Among other things, he urged Forum of Nuclear Regulatory Bodies in Africa (FNBRA) regulators to ramp up their competencies in order to support the developing nuclear programmes.
“The FNBRA must also consider the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) initiative on Nuclear Harmonisation and Standardisation while bridging the competency gap and accelerating nuclear power plant licencing in a safe, secure and safeguarded manner,” he added.
While speaking in an interview with press at the back of the Summit, he expressed the country’s readiness to advance its nuclear power agenda.
The 2023 US-Africa Nuclear Energy Summit -a three-day event, is being hosted by the US Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy and the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC). It is being held under the theme ‘Unlocking Africa’s potential through nuclear energy’.
The Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the US Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, Michael Goff, asserted that the future of nuclear energy in the US is extremely bright. The current US government, he said, is keen on using nuclear energy, which is a key element of the strategy to put the US on the path to a net-zero carbon future by 2050.
“Already, at 50 percent, nuclear energy is the largest source of emissions-free electricity in the United States today; and we see a need for ordering 200 gigawatts new nuclear capacity in the United States alone by 2050 to meet these goals.”
This is being done through the advancement of nuclear energy science and technology to meet the US and its allies and partner’s energy, environmental and economic needs, in addition to enhancing both energy and national security, he added.
Also, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation – Department of State, Ann Ganzer, acknowledged that “promoting and supporting nuclear energy efforts on the African continent is a priority for the United States”.
She said the US recognises that energy security is national security, while stressing the need for countries to pursue strategies to deepen energy independence – free of monopolies, foreign or domestic – operating on free market and national security principles if countries want to achieve energy security.
“You need a mix of different energy-types and sources (including renewables and nuclear). For a country’s energy mix to be truly security enhancing, it must be sustainable and not contribute to a loss of economic security,” she stated.
In this regard, she advised that countries pursuing nuclear energy must minimise their financial risks by being wary of things like predatory financing and unscrupulous suppliers. Nuclear energy and its programmes, she said, create a very long-term relationship and therefore require reliable partnerships.
Amplifying the nuclear energy-readiness of Ghana, Director-Nuclear Power Institute, Prof. Seth Kofi Debrah, in the first panel discussion noted that the needed infrastructure required to advance the country’s nuclear agenda continues to make progress.
On this score, he acknowledged that Ghana and the African continent, to a large extent, are ready for a nuclear power programme.