afrol News, 12 March - The government of Senegal is considering building a nuclear electricity plant with French assistance to improve its erratic power supply. Currently, only South Africa has nuclear power plants on the continent.
The issue of nuclear power was brought up at yesterday's cabinet meeting in Dakar by Energy Minister Samuel Améte Sarr, in presence of Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade. He said the French government had offered Senegal aid to build its first nuclear power plant.
During the last week, several statements to the press by Senegalese government officials indicated the West African country was considering nuclear energy. Energy Ministry spokesman Malick Ndaw on Tuesday said a nuclear plant in Senegal could be online already in 2020. Later this week, he had to go back on his statement, emphasising nothing had yet been decided, feasibility studies were still necessary and that it would take a long time before Senegal could benefit from nuclear power.
That the Senegalese nevertheless are serious about considering nuclear electricity was demonstrated at yesterday's cabinet meeting, where President Wade requested detailled information from his Energy Minister after the latter's recent visit in France.
Minister Sarr reported that he had participated in a Paris conference about access to civilian nuclear technology, following the invitation of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Here, the French nuclear industry, which is strongly export oriented, had explained the "need for scientific and financial commitment" by countries considering to embark on a nuclear electricity path.
The Senegalese Minister explained he had been offered French help to establish a nuclear industry in Senegal. The Minister was to follow up by participating in an April conference in Washington, at the invitation of President Barack Obama, and a Senegalese drive to emphasise on nuclear energy within the framework of NEPAD.
Minister Sarr announced that Senegal would ask NEPAD to establish an African Commission for Nuclear Energy with headquarters in Dakar. In this way, Senegal would start its process to concentrate African scientific and financial resources related to nuclear energy in the country. This was approved by the cabinet.
The first, small steps towards making Senegal a nuclear energy locality thus were made at the cabinet meeting.
Senegal is highly dependent on expensive fossil fuel imports for its erratic energy grid. For decades, the country has tried to diversify its energy production. This included several large hydro-electric schemes, most of which have proven slow to implement because river basins are shared with neighbour countries and due to environmental considerations.
According to the Ministry of Energy, electricity demands are increasing at a yearly rate of 7 percent. Meanwhile, energy production facilities are built at a slower scale and electricity supplies are increasingly erratic. The Ministry has been given standing orders to seek alternative energy supplies by President Wade.
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