In 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
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