Uganda to invest in power from uranium

Saturday June 07 2014

A uranium mine. Uganda plans to start exploiting its uranium resources. Photo/FILE

Uganda has approached India for technical advice on how to exploit its uranium reserves for generation of electricity.

The country aims to make nuclear power part of the energy mix by 2050.

Uganda signed a five-year agreement with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) six months ago for safe application of nuclear technologies focusing on uranium exploration and power.

Uganda’s Water and Environment Minister Mr  Ephraim Kwamuntu said: “Uganda is sitting on a pile of uranium, and Indian know-how would be very useful in accessing this for electricity generation,” he said.

Uganda, which currently has installed generation capacity of about 817 Megawatts (MW) to reduce dependence on hydro and thermal power generation. Droughts are making hydro power unreliable in East Africa. Thermal power becomes too expensive when the cost of diesel and heavy fuel oil increases. 

Surveys by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development show Uganda has about 52,000 square kilometres (sq km) of uranium deposits. This includes 18,000 square kilometers in Buganda and Tooro regions, 12,000 sq km in Karagwe-Ankole and 22,000 sq kilometres in the Lake Albert region.


Mr Kamuntu said only 14 per cent of Uganda’s population has access to electricity. He said Uganda is determined to increase its power generation capacity to achieve the status of a middle-income country, provide universal access to electricity and avail energy to the industrial sector to alleviate poverty.

Nuclear power is becoming an important source of the Asian country’s potential energy mix.

The World Bank estimates that 550 million people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity, and in a bid to cut this deficit, many countries are in different stages of developing nuclear energy.

Algeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Libya, Morocco and Nigeria have already set up research nuclear reactors while countries like Kenya and Tanzania have shown keen interest in setting up power plants and training scientists in nuclear energy.

READ: The quest for nuclear energy in Africa

Experts from the IAEA are supporting Kenya in drafting laws that will guide the generation of nuclear energy. Namibia, the world’s fourth largest uranium producer, is yet to set up a nuclear power plant partly because it lacks a nuclear energy policy, but it hopes to have one fully operational by 2018.

The Tanzanian parliament has approved the production of electricity through nuclear power, Ghana’s nuclear Bill has received Cabinet approval and is awaiting debate in parliament.

Tanzania appears likely to strike uranium around Lake Jipe, near the border with Kenya.

READ: Dar to sign Uranium deal with Mantra Ltd

India has been discussing uranium purchases from African countries as the continent emerges as an important supplier. Many African countries have shown interest in doing business with India.

These include South Africa, a member of Nuclear Suppliers Group and Namibia, which produced 4,000 tonnes of uranium in 2012.

India signed a uranium agreement with Namibia in 2011 for supplying the mineral.