THE IMPERATIVES AND BENEFITS OF
Only 30 years ago, nuclear energy was an exotic, futuristic technology, and the subject of experimentation. Today, nuclear energy is America's second largest source of electric power after coal; more than 110 nuclear energy plants supply more electricity than oil, natural gas or hydropower taken together. Nuclear energy is a clean, safe, reliable and competitive energy source. It is the only source of energy that can replace a significant part of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), which massively pollute the atmosphere and contribute to the greenhouse effect. In view of the adverse effects of climate change and dwindling oil reserves, it is imperative to promote more efficient use of energy. There is need to employ renewable energies - wind and solar – wherever possible, and adopt a more sustainable life style. But this will not be adequate to reduce the accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and satisfy the needs of industrialization and the aspirations of the developing nations. Presently, the national power generating capacity is about 3,000MWe. At current level, the per capita electricity generation in Nigeria is just about 30 We, some 30 times less than the 1kWe in South Africa. Conventional energy sources in the form of natural gas and fuel oil generate some 69% of the national capacity. The large hydropower stations at Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro have a combined installed capacity of 1830MWe, while the six other small hydropower stations located in various parts of the country have an installed capacity of 37 MWe. The National energy requirement is estimated at over 30,000 MWe. It is not likely that this will be met by the conventional sources presently available in the country. Nuclear power thus offers one of the most viable options that could make up for the shortfall. The Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission is effectively implementing a dedicated strategic plan to introduce 1,000 MWe into the national grid by 2020, and a gradual injection of another 3,000MWe within another 10 years. Probably, the most important cause of worry, all over the world, regarding the implementation of nuclear projects is that the public does not trust the safety of nuclear power plants. As a matter of course, all known power technologies have certain potentially negative aspects. Since it takes time and continuous dialogue to build and maintain trust, the general public must be systematically informed and educated on the issues entailed in our national nuclear power programme. An effective constructive engagement would therefore create better public understanding of the issues: the necessity, benefits and the safety of present day nuclear power project. It is worthy to emphasize that the implementation of a nuclear power project has both local and global impact. In this regard, the concerns of the population of the local environment as well as those of the neighbouring countries must be satisfactorily addressed to earn their confidence and consent. In this connection, the experiences of other countries would be invaluable, in addition to the three cardinal requirements of International Atomic Energy Agency. 2. THE BENEFITS OF NUCLEAR ENERGY
Nuclear power is clean, safe, reliable, compact, competitive and practically inexhaustible. Today over 400 nuclear reactors provide base-load electric power in 30 countries. Fifty years old, it is a relatively mature technology with the assurance of even greater improvement in the next generation. 2.1 CLEAN POWER GENERATION
Nuclear energy is environmentally clean – it produces almost no carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides whatsoever. These gases are produced in vast quantities when fossil fuels are burned. Carbon dioxide is produced when fossil fuels are burned; it is one of the main gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect, leading to atmospheric warming. Coal and oil contain sulphur impurities and...
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