Rwanda wants to build an experimental nuclear reactor. See why?

Rwandan has signed an agreement with a Canadian-German startup to build an experimental nuclear reactor.The new reactors can be used to produce electricity, hydrogen, and synthetic fuels at costs below those of fossil fuels.The test phase will cost 70 million euros ($75 million).

The Rwandan government signed an agreement on Tuesday with a Canadian-German startup to build an “experimental” nuclear reactor, saying it would help reduce the use of fossil fuels in the African nation.

Dual Fluid Energy, the startup overseeing the prototype’s construction, anticipates that the reactor will be prepared for testing by 2026. The testing phase, with an estimated expenditure of 70 million euros (equivalent to $75 million), will be covered by the company’s own financing.

“The new reactors can be used to produce electricity, hydrogen, and synthetic fuels at costs below those of fossil fuels,” the company’s CEO Goetz Ruprecht told reporters in Kigali.

Rwanda’s Minister of Infrastructure Ernest Nsabimana emphasised that the use of nuclear power would provide “a stable and reliable source of electricity, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and helping to meet growing energy demands.”

At present, Rwanda has an installed electricity generation capacity of 332.6 megawatts(MW), most of which is from hydropower dams and the rest from methane, solar and peat.

“Incorporating nuclear power into our energy mix will diversify the sources of energy, enhance energy security and reduce vulnerability to supply disruptions,” he added.

In 2019, Rwanda had previously entered into an agreement to establish nuclear facilities in partnership with Russia’s nuclear agency, Rosatom, which had stirred significant opposition due to concerns about safety.

Frank Habineza, the president of Rwanda’s primary opposition party, the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, expressed his concerns to AFP, stating that the agreement between the government and Dual Fluid Energy was “dangerous.”

He noted, “There is no significant distinction between what Dual Fluid Energy intends to accomplish and what Russia and the Rwandan government agreed upon in 2019.”

“There is no survey that can convince me that there is a place in this country where a nuclear reactor or a nuclear plant can be built without putting the people at risk.”

The Rwanda Atomic Energy Board and Dual Fluid Energy said their plans posed no threat to the population or the environment.

“Our test reactor is a small device with a low burn-up and therefore little radioactive material inside. For this reason, too, it poses no threat to the environment,” they said in a joint statement.

“Even in an extreme scenario where the reactor and building were destroyed under massive force, little radioactive material would be released.”

South Africa is the only country in Africa to have an operational nuclear power plant, with two reactors in service for more than 30 years. They produce 1,860 megawatts or about four per cent of the country’s total energy.

Russia’s state-owned energy corporation Rosatom last year started construction of Egypt’s first nuclear plant.

Also in March, Uganda announced its intentions to commence the generation of a minimum of 1,000 MW of nuclear power by the year 2031.

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