Friday, 26 June 2015

Just recently, it was on news that the Federal Government of Nigeria may soon embark on the development of the nuclear reactor technology which shall supply some major percentage of electricity generated in the country. So far, public opinion on this issue have been divided.

Personally, I feel that a better understanding of what the nuclear reactor technology is can help you discern whether it shall be a blessing or curse to Nigeria. I conducted some primary research on the nuclear technology and its electricity generation capabilities but I did not stop there. I also ran some insights into the problems that may arise with operational failures as well as the environmental impact and so many other factors.

One clear fact from research and live applications remains that nuclear reactor technology provides a reliable and self-sustaining source of electrical energy. But one may ask, how does a nuclear material generate electricity? In my research, I discovered that the primary nuclear substance which is also radioactive is the elemental substance called Uranium. It exists in nature as a heavy toxic silvery-white radioactive metallic element which, chemically exists in many isotopes.
The Uranium in itself does not generate the electricity but serves as the fuel which burns to generate the nuclear energy that powers the electricity-generating turbine. This power generated when uranium is systematically heated is so steady and sufficient that turbines running on nuclear power generate reliable electrical power. Let me add here that a little quantity of uranium, probably the size of a single stone pebble is enough to run a nuclear reactor for a reasonable period of time.

Now that you have seen how the nuclear reactor generates electricity, let us return to the main issue. To run an efficient nuclear reactor for electricity generation requires a zero tolerance to system failures, perfect operational control as well as periodic maintenance culture, all these comparable to global best practices. The nuclear reactor technology is heat-based therefore must be sighted very close to a massive flowing water body like a big river. From this flowing river, the technology incorporates a cooling process for the heated radioactive nuclear uranium. Any case of overheating is usually catastrophic and so must be avoided.

Other catastrophic events that may occur is the leakage of the reactor. When this happens, the radioactive nuclear materials leak into the surrounding environment and in most cases the water body which serves as the coolant. Consequently, the entire area becomes irradiated or radioactive and contact with any living tissue (plants and animals alike) results in the death of the later.

Let me also remind you that any nuclear reactor being built has a commissioning and a de-commissioning time. What I mean here is that each reactor has a life span. At the maturity of its life span, it must be shut down whether or not it is still working perfectly or not. The shut-down process is known as de-commissioning. However, the radioactive nuclear materials used are safely and systematically stored underwater in sealed radiation-proof casing. This is where they remain forever as disposed radioactive nuclear wastes.

The nuclear power reactor technology is one of the most hi-tech processes involving world-class nuclear scientists, engineers, safety professionals and many other experts. Before Nigeria commences the development of this technology, the government needs to ratify some international treaties and some other international legal agreements.
But with the unfortunate lapses in governance and proven insufficiency of funds and expertise in the nation’s science and technology industry, do you think that Nigeria can effectively and efficiently develop and sustain the proposed nuclear reactor technology for electricity generation? I will be happy to read your views in this matter as you freely drop your comments below. Also share with friends on the social media to attract their views on this important matter.


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