Energy minister David Mabumba says it is safe for Zambia to start the production of nuclear energy because the country is peaceful with no terrorism history – as long as a nuclear policy is put in place to ensure safe transportation, storage and disposal of chemical materials.

In this Video, Mabumba explains to News Diggers! the advantages of investing in other “energy portfolios other than hydro generation”, adding that the country has already signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia and China in order to assess which of the two has the best technology that Zambia can take up.

“Zambia over the years has been thinking of broadening its generation means because you may be aware that today’s power deficit we are going through is because of wrong choices we made many many years ago, because we only invested our power generation in one pot which is hydro. Had we invested in solar, had we invested in wind and had we invested in nuclear, today the power deficit we are going through as a country would not have happened,” Mabumba said.

“It is because of this challenge that we are going through as a country that we have learnt that we need to diversify. As part of our diversification agenda in terms of energy portfolio, we want to invest in nuclear. But before we invest in nuclear we are trying to create national capacity.”

He said Zambia would have to prove to international nuclear energy regulators that the country has no bad intention for the technology.

“The requirement and benchmarks for investing in nuclear technology is very high because as a country if you want to invest you need to get approvals from international organisations and one of them is the International Atomic Energy. They are not going to allow you if you don’t prove to them that you want to invest in nuclear energy for the purpose of generating power. Because nuclear, you can use it for other wrong purposes,” Mabumba said.

“But I am sure that Zambia as a country is a peaceful nation, we have never been involved in terrorism, so I am sure once we create an environment, nuclear technology can be one good source of power generation in this country.”

He said the National Radiation Authority was already working with officials from his ministry to come up with a Nuclear Policy framework.

Number one, we need to have a nuclear policy, which the Radiation Authority is working on with the ministry. Number two; you need to create capacity in your people – human capital, because if they don’t have the knowhow, how are they going to transfer the nuclear technology? The guy who is going to do the development of the nuclear energy is just going to come with a few workers, once he completes the development, he will say, ‘guys we are handing over’, so if you don’t have trained and competent people, who is going to run your nuclear plant? We need to sponsor people to go to China or Russia to pursue nuclear knowledge,” Mabumba said.

“We also need to create institutional capacity in our universities because if you look at the universities we have, I don’t know if there is any college which is specialising in renewable energy and nuclear energy. So we have discussed with the minister of energy that she needs to create a school that is going to specialise in renewable energy and nuclear energy. Once that has been done, we can say as a country we are ready to invest in nuclear energy.”

Asked if he had been to other countries using nuclear energy to learn the consequences, Mabumba said President Edgar Lungu had been to South Africa on a fact-finding mission.

“We have been to South Africa, the President himself asked Eskom, ‘what about the myth around nuclear energy?’ and Eskom said ‘your Excellency, nuclear energy is one technology that any country can invest in, on condition that you create an environment for bringing nuclear energy in your country,” Mabumba said.

The minister, however, admitted that if not properly managed, nuclear energy could be catastrophic to human beings and the environment.

“Whether we are going to be using uranium in terms of nuclear energy, that is a substance that has to be managed properly because of its ramification on the people and on the environment. So we need to ensure that as we bring this technology, how are the nuclear materials going to be transported? How are they going to be stored? How are you going to dispose the nuclear waste? So if you don’t have any nuclear policy in place, then it becomes very difficult,” he said.

Mabumba said Zambia may choose to adopt Chinese or Russian nuclear technology.

“We have two options, apart from signing an agreement with Russia, we have also signed a memorandum with the Chinese, so between the two, we will see who has the best technology.