Nuclear Energy In Developing CountriesIn early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a rapid drop in energy demand, laying the foundation for an energy crisis. This foundation was strengthened by the 2020 Russia-Saudi Arabia Oil Price War and cemented by the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, culminating in the collapse of the global oil trade, starting the energy crisis. The energy crisis has hit developing countries the hardest, as developing countries are more reliant on non-renewable sources of energy. As a result, renewable sources of energy, such as nuclear power, are gaining popularity in developing countries as a way to provide energy beyond the methods hurt by the energy crisis. However, nuclear energy in developing countries is still in its infancy. Here are some facts regarding the future of nuclear energy in developing countries.

4 Facts About Nuclear Energy in Developing Countries

  1. Countries Can Form New Partnerships. The most commonly used source of nuclear energy in developing countries, uranium, is not found in every country. By creating nuclear power plants based on uranium, many developing countries give off the impression to nations unaligned with them that they are looking to enter into new trade deals. This was the case in Pakistan in March 2021, when it completed a nuclear power plant with the help of China. This cooperation led to a new trade agreement between Pakistan and China that allowed for a greater exchange of minerals such as those necessary to help build the power plant.
  2. Protection Against Natural Disasters. Out of the 10 deadliest natural disasters in 2021, most of them occurred in developing countries. The threat of a natural disaster is a leading cause of anti-nuclear sentiments, as damage to a power plant could cause tens of thousands to have to evacuate and potentially kill thousands of people. However, through new thorium-based reactors, it is almost impossible to cause a meltdown in a modern nuclear power plant. This is because new reactors make use of a liquid form of thorium that relies on a plutonium battery to produce energy. If a natural disaster were to occur, the thorium could be drained away from the plutonium battery, preventing a meltdown and saving the lives of thousands of people in developing countries.
  3. Defense Against Terrorism. In many developing countries, terrorists pose a major threat to the energy industry. This is evident how in 2019, the Houthi destroyed an oil facility in Saudi Arabia, impacting the production of 5 million barrels per day, according to The Guardian. However, because of new isolation-based reactors, nuclear power plants do not face the same threat. This is because thorium is not a weaponizable material, since its fission doesn’t produce plutonium, which is one of the elements that nuclear weapons use.
  4. Removing the Reliance on Fossil Fuels. Due to an already established reliance on coal, oil, or other fossil fuels, it might be difficult for a developing country with a fossil fuel-based energy system to transition to nuclear-based energy. Despite this, investing in nuclear power has benefits in the long run, even if a developing country has a reliance on fossil fuels. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) projects that by 2050, nuclear energy “could contribute about 12% of global electricity.”

Looking Forward

While nuclear energy may have a slow start in many developing countries, it certainly has a promising future. For instance, in March 2022, Nigeria committed itself to construct a power plant, which could provide energy to millions of impoverished Nigerians.

Along with that, in 2021, Bangladesh began construction of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant with the primary purpose of solving Bangladesh’s longstanding energy problem.

There are certainly hurdles to developing nuclear energy in developing countries. However, as seen in Nigeria and Bangladesh, it is definitely possible to establish nuclear energy within developing countries. As these countries transition away from fossil fuels and into renewables such as nuclear energy, they could be providing a stable source of energy to tens of millions of impoverished people that could live a life with energy without the threat of global disruptions.

– Humzah Ahmad
Photo: Flickr

Energy Poverty in Bangladesh
Bangladesh recently transitioned from a lower-income country to a lower-middle-income country as per the World Bank’s GDP per capita benchmark. Bangladesh’s Global Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate went from 6.5% in 2012 to 7.3% in 2017.

The demand for electricity rose, as a result, thrusting the government into focusing on eradicating energy poverty in Bangladesh. However, misuse and improper management of energy contributed to the shortage of electricity, and load shedding became a daily phenomenon. Here are some additional facts about energy poverty in the country.

Facts About Energy Poverty in Bangladesh

Only around 59.6% of the people in Bangladesh have access to electricity with 180 kilowatt-hours of energy per capita in use, which is very low in comparison to other countries. Rural areas tend to suffer more as they face more load shedding than urban areas.

Bangladesh heavily relies on natural gas and furnace oil, followed by coal, for electricity generation. As of February 2017, the installed power capacity shows the reliance on natural gas is 62%.

This raises concerns over energy security due to the increasing fuel imports and high dependence on coal and gas for electricity generation. Yet, the country has been failing to meet its electricity demand. Therefore, it is trying to focus on meeting its energy needs and providing access to electricity all over the country.

Progress in Eradicating Energy Poverty in Bangladesh

In September 2018, there was significant progress in eradicating energy poverty in Bangladesh when the country managed to meet its energy production target of 20,000 MW. Bangladesh also set a new target of generating 24,000 MW of electricity by 2021, 40,000 MW by 2030 and 60,000 MW by 2041.

As of 2018, the number of power plants amounted to 108, a significant increase from the 27 power plants in 2009. Bangladesh ranked 90th among 115 nations on the global Energy Transition Index (ETI) which benchmarks countries on how well they balance their energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability.

Bangladesh made progress due to a strong political commitment, a stable policy regime, the use of grid expansion and generation sources and an investment-friendly environment in the infrastructure sector.

Some Upcoming Projects for Eradicating Energy Poverty in Bangladesh

  • Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant – Bangladesh’s first nuclear power plant, the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP) project, is being constructed in Rooppur, a remote village on the western side of Bangladesh in the Pabna District. The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) implemented the project under the Ministry of Science & Technology. The project is a part of an intergovernmental agreement between Bangladesh and Russia. The nuclear power plant of 2,400 MW capacity, with two reactors of 1,200 MW each, is one of the major efforts in eradicating energy poverty in Bangladesh. The project’s expected completion is by 2024.
  • Matarbari Coal Power Plant – The 1,200 MW Matarbari coal-fired power plant project, which the Coal Power Generation Company Bangladesh Ltd (CPGCBL) implemented and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency assisted, will use imported coal to generate power. The plant will have two units, each having a production capacity of 600 MW. The project will also include a deep seaport.
  • Rampal Thermal Power Plant – This 1,320 MW coal-fired power plant in the Bagerhat district of Khulna is a joint venture between India’s National Thermal Power Corporation and Bangladesh Power Development Board. Expectations have determined that this will be the country’s largest power plant.

Expansion of Renewable Energy

On March 1, 2019, the World Bank approved $185 million to add up to 310 MW renewable energy generation capacity and also to mobilize around $212 million from the private sector, commercial banks, and other sources to meet the increasing demand for electricity. The Scaling-up Renewable Energy Project in Bangladesh by the World Bank will build the first 50 MW segment of a large solar panel energy park in the Feni district. This project should provide better access to clean energy and cut emissions by an equivalent of 377,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

With the rapid economic growth in the country, Bangladesh has made some notable progress in addressing its growing electricity demand. Through increased diversification of its energy mix and more ambitious projects on the way, energy poverty in Bangladesh should reduce.

Farihah Tasneem
Photo: Flickr