GOVERNMENT is in the early stages of negotiating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to seek approval in exploring nuclear energy generation.
The IAEA is an international organisation under the United Nations that promotes the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.
The need for nuclear energy in Zimbabwe comes at a time the country is only generating 650 megawatts (MW) per day, against a demand of between 1 400MW and 1 700MW.
“We need to take advantage of every source of power that we got. It is permissible to use nuclear for peaceful means. We want energy, so it is a process that one goes through with in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and we are at the beginning of that process. The energy would come from uranium,” Energy minister Fortune Chasi told NewsDay in a recent interview.
When asked how soon the use of nuclear energy could be actualised, Chasi said: “I can’t say because the pace is determined by the international regulator (IAEA). We are already a member so what we want to do is to benefit from the services that agency gives us.”
He said the ministry was still to conduct a proper study to see how much power could be generated from the nuclear energy.
According to the Mines and Mining Development ministry, the exploration of uranium is being done in Hwange and Binga with a goal of using it in nuclear reactors in generating electricity.
Hwange and Binga are in the Matabeleland North province of Zimbabwe.
In the past, the IAEA has noted the potential of Africa to produce power through nuclear means.
An October 2018 report from the IAEA found that a third of the almost 30 countries considering nuclear power were in Africa.
“Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan have already engaged with the IAEA to assess their readiness to embark on a nuclear programme. Algeria, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia are also mulling the possibility of nuclear power,” reads part of the 2018 report.
At present, South Africa is the only country in Africa with a commercial nuclear power plant which supplies around 5% of that country’s total electricity production.
The IAEA operates the Forum of Nuclear Regulatory Bodies in Africa (FNRBA), a network which comprises 33 regulatory bodies from African states.
The FNRBA has 10 working groups that aim to strengthen co-operation among its members in specific fields such as legislative and regulatory infrastructure, safety in radioactive waste management and emergency preparedness and response.