Africa’s future depends on nuclear and its baseload power


By Sandra Afwande

The demand of energy in Africa increases substantially as its population continues to upsurge. Most African countries have low rates of electrification with 62% of the population lacking access to electricity. (Majoroh, 2019).

According to the report published by Statistica Science department in April 2023, Africa heavily relies on natural gas and coal as the main sources of energy. While these sources are cost effective and easily accessible, their impact on the environment as fossil fuels is grave. Fossil fuels are known to cause land degradation, water and air pollution. This greatly affects health of individuals in Africa especially women and children (Nwokike, 2019).

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (#SDG7) aims at ensuring affordable access

to reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030 (United Nations, 2015). Less than seven years to 2030, the African continent is still lagging behind towards achieving this goal. This hinders the continent’s potential to alleviate poverty, promote industrialization and increases the region’s vulnerability to climate change (Chirambo, 2018).

In light of this, nuclear energy is considered as the alternative to sustainable energy production in Africa.


Nuclear energy is the second largest source of low carbon energy used today. Countries such as the US and France with nuclear energy in their power grids have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by more than 60 gigatons in the past 50 years which is equal to 2 years greenhouse emissions by fossil fuel sources of energy.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), nuclear power currently accounts for 10% of the world’s power supply.


Nuclear power can operate at full capacity with no interruptions – making it the reliable source of electricity. Nuclear energy can operate flexibly meeting fluctuations in energy demands from renewable sources of energy such as hydroelectricity and solar energy which are affected by the diverse climate changes most of African areas face.

With advancement in innovation and technology, small modular reactor designs have been invented making nuclear energy an attractive and affordable source of low carbon energy for low-income countries mostly located in Africa (Jawerth, 2020). So far, South Africa is the only country in Africa with nuclear energy reactors which account for almost 5% of the country’s source of energy. Plans are underway to extend the nuclear power plant’s life to 2044 for the continuous production of low carbon energy promoting industrialization and economic growth.


Governments across the African continent intend to move to medium income countries by 2030. The expected socio-economic growth will inadvertently lead to an increased demand for stable and reliable sources of power.

While much of Africa has staked its growth on renewable sources of energy such as hydro electricity and solar energy, its hardly enough to power economies. Even use of fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas is also dwindling in the wake of depletion of these minerals.

Furthermore, the environmental impact of fossil fuels greatly hinders the economic growth plans (Gil, 2028). As an alternative, therefore, nuclear energy has the ability to supplement these renewable sources as it is a stable and reliable source of energy.

Unlike solar and hydro electric power which dwindle with varying weather conditions, nuclear energy is not affected by weather changes. According to Mikhail Chudakov, Africa is hungry for energy and nuclear power could be part of the answer to this demand. So far, more than 12 African countries are considering adding nuclear power into their energy mix to supplement the renewable sources of energy. They include, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana and DRC Congo. This is in line to meet the demand for reliable and clean source of energy (Olamide 2021).


The global demands of energy sustainability and environmental considerations necessitate Africa to have alternative sources of energy. Most sub-Saharan countries have a grid connected power equivalent to Spain’s but with a higher population.

Some 600 million lack access to electricity. Additionally, more than 900 million people both in rural and urban areas which are more electrified, use dirty and potentially hazardous fuels such as wood for cooking while electricity is mainly used for lighting and powering devices.


The cutting down of trees to provide these fuels hampers Africa’s ability to attain the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG15), which calls for management of forests and halting biodiversity loss. Cutting down trees diminishes Africa’s forest cover thus negatively affecting the climate.

The need to look at nuclear energy as a major component of Africa’s energy mix is imperative as it does not emit greenhouse gases during its operations. This conserves the environment by reducing global warming while enhancing energy security and reliability (MSebenzi, 2021).

Nuclear power has a positive impact on the economy and employment. Nuclear power provides the opportunity to implement technologically advanced projects that can contribute to creation of stable high value jobs.

Poland, a country heavily reliant on coal power production is looking to decarbonize its energy sector. It looks at nuclear as a win-win opportunity as those working in coal factories will get employment in the nuclear field. A study conducted in Europe indicates nuclear power’s potential to 1.1 million jobs, 47% of which are highly skilled.

Nuclear energy could generate state revenues from powering industries, household revenues from those employed and even trade surplus revenues. This could be the case in Africa if more African countries work towards incorporating nuclear energy into their power grids. The poverty levels in Africa would decrease and nuclear power will foster economic development (WNN, 2019).


The main reasons most African countries are apprehensive towards incorporation of nuclear energy into their power grids is the safety concern. The Fukushima incident is highly referenced by nuclear energy critics purporting it as an unstable source of energy that could erupt at any time. This makes the public hesitant towards accepting nuclear energy as an alternative source of power.

However, it is not noted that nobody died from that incident even though the surrounding environment was greatly impacted by the incident. Therefore, African countries need to consider safety as a major priority in establishment of nuclear power plants and work with international agencies such as IAEA in ensuring the safety of the people from harmful effects of ionizing radiation.


Proper nuclear waste disposal is a concern. African governments would need to have designated areas for disposal of nuclear waste and ensure it is far away from the general public till its decay to levels below the ordinary background radiation. The amount of radioactive material that is left over from nuclear power plants, however, is luckily very small compared to the waste produced by other methods of generating energy, for instance burning coal or gas, but handling it can be expensive and it must be done absolutely right.

Nuclear energy has the potential of taking the African continent to the next level in terms of attaining the SDGs drafted by the UN. Most African countries should consider using it as an alternative source of energy as it is stable and reliable.


However, care should be taken in handling nuclear power plants as safety is a concern. Radioactive waste should be properly managed and disposed in a way that protects the general public from the effects of ionizing radiation. With these practices in place, Africa will grow significantly in industrialization and have surplus energy. When happens, socio-economic growth is possible and the poverty levels in Africa will significantly decrease.


  1. Majoroh, E. (2019, April 10). ENERGY POVERTY IN AFRICA – THE NEED TO

BRIDGE THE GAP. Welcome to Efe Majoroh Environment Blog.


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  1. Wikipedia contributors. (2023). Nuclear power in South Africa. Wikipedia.

  1. Samuel, O. (2021, November 21). What role can nuclear energy play in Africa’s climate transition? Climate Crisis | Al Jazeera. -climate-strategy#:~:text=There%20is%20also,Nuclear%20Ban%20Treaty.

  1. Is Africa ready for nuclear energy? (n.d.). IAEA. %2C%20Ghana%2C%20Kenya%2C%20Morocco%2C%20Niger%2C%20Nigeria%20and%20Sudan,are%20also%20mulling%20the%20possibility%20of%20nuclear%20power.

  1. Viewpoint: The climate and economic benefits of nuclear power : Perspectives – World Nuclear News. (n.d.) f-nuc#:~:text=A%20high%20nuclear,and%20household%20income.

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