A former UK chief scientific advisor has strongly defended a Rwanda government plan to set up a nuclear energy program that will include a nuclear power plant.
Prof Sir David King, who has been a member of Rwanda’s Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) for several years, said in Kigali today March 21 that a nuclear plant was “dangerous” but that did not mean it cannot be safe.
“Everyone knows that the nuclear energy is potentially dangerous, but everyone also knows that flying in an aircraft is potentially dangerous,” he told reporters after delivering a public lecture, adding, “the main thing is to make your aircraft safe, the main thing is make your nuclear reactor safe.”
Sir King’s comments come after a heated debate ensued in Parliament earlier this week when the Infrastructure Minister Claver Gatete brought a bill that ratifies a global nuclear treaty. Government also hinted that it was working on a feasible nuclear program and a plant.
Opposition members of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda were in overdrive. Despite being only two in the House, Green Party leader Dr Frank Habineza and his party member put on spirited dismissal of the nuclear plant, even arguing Rwanda was “too small”.
In reaction, Minister Gatete said government was aware of all the risks involved and not intent on establishing something it wasn’t sure.
The ratification was voted through by all MPs present except the Green Party.
Speaking today, Prof King pointed out that if Rwanda was going nuclear, it should consider a much smaller power plant.
“I wouldn’t for one minute advice that Rwanda build 1.6 GW nuclear reactor, am advising 50 MW for the time,” said King.
“I think that the contamination of water should never happen from a nuclear plant from anywhere in the world. It is very important that there could be a safety zone purchased if Rwanda is going down that root and that safety zone must include several things to prevent water contamination.”
Earlier, in the lecture organized by the University of Rwanda (UR) for engineers, academics and students, Prof King covered a range of areas Rwanda had dealt with, or needs to do, to establish a sustainable path towards 2050.
His lecture was themed: “Foresight in Policy Making: Management of Risks and Opportunities for Rwanda and the World”.
In a prepared presentation, he cited Rwanda’s “three challenges” as: population growth that could hit 25m from 12m today: climate change with heavy rain in one part but drought in another; and economic growth that is coming with huge impact on all aspects of the country.
Soil erosion is also a huge problem that has to be tackled. There are “conservative estimates of 45m tonnes of soil loss annually, equivalent to $173 per farmer,” said King.
He pointed out the western region of Rwanda is the worst affected.
The eastern region and the capital Kigali will “face severe water shortage” by 2040, he noted, if not adequately managed.