According to Devex the idea of nuclear energy to power Africa was floated during the discussions to change the ‘Electrify Africa Act’ during a US House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting by a one Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC).

A man uses biogas to light his home in Kenya. U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan would like to recommend that the government uses nuclear energy to power Africa. Photo by: Shravan Vidyarthi / Land O’Lakes International Development / USAID / CC BY-NC

The Obama administration has been pursuing the ‘Power Africa’ strategy to help eliminate energy poverty in Africa and American Congress is considering lending its support to the initiative through a bill which the foreign affairs committee passed on Thursday.

According to reports, Duncan said he would recommend the option of nuclear power to the American government for the African continent as we already have two nuclear reactors — both built in the 1980s by the former apartheid regime in South Africa and which currently satisfy only 5 percent of the country’s demand for electricity.

He also said that he hoped the South African government would consider small modular reactors, which he said “can power small cities, large neighborhoods — and in this case in Africa, small villages with a very stable, 24/7 baseload power supply to meet the needs of the electrical components there.” He recognized that some people “who don’t like nuclear power” may raise concerns about security in a whole continent with barely any experience dealing with atomic energy, but, he said, there are ways to mitigate those risks.

The Electrify Africa Act has so far attracted bipartisan support. Overall, the activities it covers, including trade facilitation and credit guarantees for U.S. investment, will actually generate revenue for the U.S. government, thus dampening political battles over foreign aid spending. The bill also covers a wide range of potential power generating activities, as a part of an “all-of-the-above” strategy to energy projects.

However, the bill does not mention nuclear power, and U.S. support for nuclear power projects in Africa seems unlikely — though not impossible. The ability to finance nuclear power plants differs between government agencies involved in Power Africa: The Overseas Private Investment Corp. cannot finance nuclear facilities, while the U.S. Export-Import Bank can.

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