Russia and South Korea have plans to build two nuclear power plants in Uganda, with the capacity to generate a total of 15,600 megawatts of electricity.
This significant development was confirmed by President Yoweri Museveni during a coffee summit on Tuesday. While the timeline and funding details for the projects are yet to be finalised, this marks a significant step towards diversifying Uganda’s energy mix and reducing its dependency on hydroelectric power.
In his announcement, President Museveni outlined that one nuclear power plant unit will have a capacity of 7,000MW, while the other will produce 8,400MW. The partnership between Russia, South Korea, and Uganda aims to harness the potential of uranium power stations in order to meet Uganda’s growing demand for electricity.
This is not the first time that Uganda has explored the idea of nuclear power. In fact, in 2016, officials from the Russian owned Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation visited the country and signed an agreement with the Ugandan authorities for the development of a nuclear power station. However, due to funding constraints and various other challenges, the project did not materialise at that time.
Currently, Uganda’s power generation capacity stands at 1,402MW, with an available power supply of only 800MW. This means that a significant portion of the country’s generated electricity remains unutilized. As a result, there is a pressing need to increase power generation capacity to meet the ever-growing demand for electricity in Uganda. This is where the construction of the nuclear power plants comes into play.
Nuclear power is known for its ability to produce large quantities of electricity consistently and reliably, without emitting greenhouse gases. It has been widely adopted as an alternative to traditional energy sources in countries such as France, the United States, and China. By embracing nuclear power, Uganda can reduce its reliance on hydroelectric power generation, which is subject to fluctuations in rainfall and limited by geographical constraints.
One of the challenges faced by Uganda in implementing large-scale hydroelectric projects is the availability of funding. The construction of dams and the associated infrastructure requires substantial financial resources, which are often difficult to secure.
In comparison, while the initial investment for building nuclear power plants is high, the long-term operational costs are relatively lower. Additionally, partnering with established nuclear technology providers such as Russia and South Korea can facilitate access to financing options.
According to President Museveni, Uganda possesses valuable uranium deposits, which are essential for the production of nuclear power. He mentioned that several companies expressed interest in mining and exporting the uranium, but he rejected their proposals. When asked about the purpose of exporting the mineral, he questioned the idea and insisted on processing it within Uganda for power generation. It seems that these foreign companies did not revisit their plans after being turned down.
Furthermore, President Museveni emphasised his decision to ban the exportation of raw materials. He believed that processing these materials within the country would result in higher profits and job opportunities. As an example, he referred to an Indian investor who wanted to mine and export iron ore back to India. After conducting investigations, President Museveni discovered that Uganda would only receive a meagre $47 (Ush168,000) per tonne of iron ore, while the investors stood to make $700 (Ush2.5m) from processing it.
In light of this situation, President Museveni strongly urged companies to process resources locally rather than exporting them as raw materials. Recently, he extended this principle to timber exports by allowing only wooden furniture made within Uganda to be exported. Additionally, he directed government agencies not to purchase imported furniture when local manufacturers could produce comparable products.
President Museveni’s stance reflects his commitment to maximising Uganda’s economic potential through strategic resource management and promoting domestic industries.