Friday, April 2, 2010

Nuclear Energy in Africa

It looks like Africa is showing a growing interest in investing in nuclear energy. Although many African countries have been plagued with political problems that have made stable economic development difficult, a thriving nuclear sector would be a boon to the continent and might help it overcome its economic hurdles.

Several African nations attended the International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy held in Paris and appear to be willing to work with France to expand their nuclear infrastructure. Nuclear energy is capital intensive but it has the advantages of reliability, high efficiency, in addition to all of its costs being upfront instead of being hidden like with fossil fuel-based energy.

Unfortunately, nuclear energy does not qualify for carbon credits through the "Clean Development Mechanism". This is largely a political position by the organization as these carbon credits can apparently only be used to build other forms of renewable energy such as wind turbines and solar plants. However, as nuclear energy is virtually a carbon-free energy source this is an unfortunate omission. An argument can be made that nuclear energy releases carbon dioxide during the construction and mining phases, but this is minimal and still less than the amount of carbon dioxide that is released during the construction of wind turbines and solar panels. Additionally, nuclear energy produces much more energy and requires much less land than a wind farm or a solar plant. Finally, the materials used in the construction of solar panels often contain toxic substances in addition to rare elements. This makes the anti-nuclear position of the Clean Development Mechanism grossly inaccurate.

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