By David Himbara
Energy poverty in President Paul Kagame’s Rwanda is very extreme. Access rate is currently 9% in rural areas where over 80% of the population lives, versus 72% access rate in urban areas. When it comes to cooking, not even Rwanda’s tiny elite can afford to use electricity — over 90% of Rwandans depend on biomass. People without power in Rwanda number 8 million in a population of 12 million.
Evidently, Kagame believes that atomic power is the solution to energy poverty in Rwanda. Towards that end, Kagame is set to build a Russian-made nuclear power plant. Kagame’s government and the Russian nuclear agency Rosatom signed an MOU on June 23, 2018.
The memorandum covers peaceful uses of atomic energy. The MOU in particular establishes legal basis for the development of nuclear infrastructure, including:
- Raising awareness of nuclear technologies;
- Their applications;
- Use of radioisotopes and radiation technologies in manufacturing.
- Use of radioisotopes and radiation technologies in agriculture; and
- Use of radioisotopes and radiation technologies in healthcare.
The next step is the setting up of joint Russian and Rwandan working groups to identify specific projects within cooperation.
The intriguing question is where Kagame will find the money to build a nuclear power plant. Nuclear power is an expensive source of energy. According to the Union Of Concerned Scientists in the USA, a nuclear power plant costs US$9 Billion.