Russia likely to win bid for Uganda’s nuclear energy plans

Simon D’Ujanga, state minister for energy, and Nikolai Spassky, the deputy director general of the Russian state Atomic Energy Corporation sign a memorandum of understanding on 19 June 2017 in Moscow. Credit: Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development

Uganda is considering signing an inter-government agreement with Russia on the development of uranium reserves into nuclear power for mainly electricity generation and medicine.

The two governments have so far signed a memorandum of understanding and officials involved with the process now say discussions on the IGA are in advanced stages. The agreement is expected to be signed in June 2018.

The MoU was signed by Uganda’s junior energy minister, Simon D’Ujanga, and the deputy director general of ROSATOM State Atomic Energy Corporation, Nikolai Spassky, in Moscow at the sidelines of ATOMEXPO, an international exhibition of the nuclear industry held this June.

“The memorandum is the first step towards bilateral cooperation in the area of peaceful uses of atomic energy by both countries”, a statement by the ministry of energy said. It established a framework of cooperation with a focus on the “development of nuclear power infrastructure in the Republic of Uganda and the uses of radioisotopes and radiation technologies, applications in industry, medicine, agriculture and other areas.” It also covers “collaboration on Human Resource education and training, nuclear research centres, nuclear energy, among others.”

Officials involved with the process told this website that the MoU was a “binding” framework for the two countries to cooperate, while the IGA will entail “more precise” areas for the development of Uganda’s uranium.

The revelation coincides with this week’s visit of the Russian Deputy Minister of Telecom and Mass Communications, Alexey Volin, who also co-chairs the Inter-governmental Commission on Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation of the two countries.

Mr Volin’s 30 member delegation, comprised of officials from Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom), a Russian state-owned nuclear corporation bringing together 400 nuclear companies and institutions that operate in the civilian and defense sectors. The delegation held talks with Uganda’s energy ministry officials on the development of nuclear energy for “peaceful purposes.”

Rosatom runs nine nuclear reactors in Russia and 36 abroad. The company also ranks second globally for operating uranium reserves, and third for annual uranium extraction.

The Uganda government’s National Development and Vision 2040 says that government intends to use its uranium reserves to generate electricity using nuclear power stations part of the energy mix by 2050.

Recent surveys by the energy ministry show that Uganda has about 52,000 square kilometres 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 around the Lake Albert region.

Besides Russia, Uganda is also in separate talks with China through the state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). A government delegation travelled to Beijing late in May to start discussions on an agreement to cooperate.