Rwanda has entered negotiations with Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM) over the establishment of a Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology (CNST) in the East African nation. This follows an accord on non-violent uses of atomic energy that was signed by both countries in 2018.
The planned nuclear centre is part of a broader objective of encouraging nuclear energy development through infrastructure, with the ultimate goal of using its potentials in improving key economic areas such as agriculture, medicine, education, and electricity generation.
“Rwanda envisions having a Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology in the nearest future … You can’t believe that other countries are using nuclear (science) for a better life and we can’t use it. We need to move faster,” Energy Division Manager at Kigali’s Ministry of Infrastructure, Robert Nyamvumba, said during an international summit on nuclear energy in Russia.
As quoted by the New Times, Nyamvumba explained that the cooperation will see Rwanda and Russia establish academic programmes that will equip Rwandans with advanced knowledge in nuclear sciences. Particularly, the University of Rwanda will be training students from the undergraduate through Doctoral levels (PhDs).
Furthermore, a legal and policy framework will be developed to allow the construction of a research nuclear reactor. The first nuclear-powered radiations will be used to aid cancer treatment, food processing, and increase cassava and rice crop production.
As regards a timeframe, the centre and reactor could be set up within the next five years. “We are looking at 2023-2024. We are moving aggressively to see the centre established in Bugesera industrial park,” Nyamvumba revealed.
Nuclear energy has great potentials and if properly harnessed, could improve productivity and help achieve sustainable development across many sectors. Mostly championed by Russia, a lot of African countries have in recent times secured investments from the European nation to build nuclear capacities in their home countries.
According to the Chief Executive Officer of ROSATOM (for Central and Southern Africa), Dmitry Shornikov, the shelf life of Africa’s agricultural products can be improved by introducing radiation centres using nuclear technology in the continent.
Explaining that nuclear energy is one of the most reliable and affordable sources of energy, the chief executive advised African countries to adopt it in response to their energy demands.
“Sixty years is the lifespan of a nuclear power plant but it can be extended to 100 years. We shouldn’t be just looking at the upfront cost of building a nuclear power plant. It is literally the cheapest electricity out here,” Shornikov said at the same forum.
However, he observed that awareness campaigns are needed to change people’s perception of nuclear energy as well as educate them about the benefits of the development of nuclear technologies in the country.
Along with ROSATOM, Rwanda has the backing of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and local experts are considering how nuclear technology can help increase agricultural – cassava and rice – production.