A Kenyan student studying nuclear engineering in Russia has made a case and amplified the voice of scholars rooting for the adoption of nuclear technologies in Africa.
Robert Folkenberg Siro said Africa should embrace nuclear energy which he described as clean, safe, efficient, and critical in dealing with the energy crunch that is hindering the continent from taking the next step towards development.
Compared to other energy sources, Siro says nuclear can be easily deployed and would operate continuously and reliably, irrespective of the location, offering the much-needed energy security which is a driving force for industrialization.
“I think exploring nuclear energy will be an opportunity for Africa. We have numerous categories of reactors. There are small modular reactors to small nuclear power plants that countries can build even in remote locations. For instance, here in Russia, the small modular reactors have worked successfully like in the case of floating nuclear power plants, that supply energy to remote locations in the country,” explained Siro, a student of thermal physics at Russia’s National Research Nuclear University.
Siro who received a scholarship from the Russian state atomic energy corporation, Rosatom, to pursue his university studies adds; “Exploiting this option will be beneficial to African countries. It has worked for them, and I am sure it will work for us,”
Speaking on the sidelines of the recent Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg, Siro pointed to studies showing that the industry benefits greatly from nuclear technology. Besides reliable power, Siro who specializes in thermal-hydraulics, emphasized that nuclear helps improve product quality while boosting industrial productivity.
He says a country like Kenya, for example, is keen to achieve Vision 2030, a development blueprint that he observes heavily relies on energy.
“I believe nuclear energy will help Kenya realize this agenda,” he said, noting that Russia, with its expertise, can intervene to great benefit.
“Whereas Kenya has done well in other energy sources such as hydro and geothermal, nuclear would really make the country’s power grid stronger and powerful,” he said
Besides, the third-year student says nuclear technologies can help Africa address the food insecurity challenge. He says nuclear technology offers huge opportunities in agriculture.
Here, he says nuclear helps in the development of agricultural technologies that promote farming as manifested through increased crop production, and control of pests and diseases.
“Through nuclear, there are ways we can facilitate the growth of plants as well as inhibiting poor growth among many other things,” he said while also citing new seed varieties that have higher yields, developed through nuclear technologies.
“It’s crucial because we are also intending to go at par with countries that have progressed,” he avers
At the same time, Siro spoke highly of nuclear’s zero-emissions advantage, making it environmentally friendly. He says nuclear will come in handy in the development of smart city projects such as Kenya’s Konza Technopolis.
“One of the key issues in smart cities is that you have to ensure that the pollution aspect is eliminated, especially given carbon dioxide emissions, and so forth. And in Nuclear energy there are zero emissions,” he said
He expressed delight that most African countries are sending students to Russia to pursue studies in nuclear technologies but challenged more students from the continent to look out for opportunities in the same field.
As an advocate of nuclear technologies, he says while public perception of nuclear has been somehow negative, he is encouraged that the view is slowly changing.
“What we do as nuclear ambassadors is to try to debunk the myths and misconceptions associated with these technologies,” he said, even as he lauded Rosatom for promoting initiatives aimed at exposing nations to the benefits of nuclear.
Courtesy of the agencies’ efforts, more African countries are expressing their interest in developing nuclear infrastructure programmes. A number of them signed up for the development of nuclear programmes during the summit.