By Jeff Kapembwa
LUSAKA – Overwhelmed by the need to bolster energy in the Southern African and continent’s second leading copper producer, Zambia has inked a deal with Russia to oversee the pilot phase of the construction of a Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology in the country, among other projects.
Zambia’s energy output averages 1,900 megawatts with generation capacity estimated at 6,000 megawatts. The deficit has led the country to fall short of meeting the increased demand for domestic and export markets.
During a recent bilateral meeting held in Russia during the AtomExpo, the two countries signed four agreements.
Russia, renowned for its nuclear capacity, will undertake feasibility studies of the nuclear power plant to be built in Zambia.
Zambia’s Higher Education Ministry Permanent Secretary Owen Mugemezulu signed a contract for the construction of the nuclear centre in Zambia with Rusatom Overseas president Evgeny Pakermanov.
As per the agreement, works are expected to commence by next year. Mugemezulu said the deal would enable the country increase its energy prospects with the inclusion of nuclear power in addition to solar, biomass, geothermal, among other alternative sources.
One of the agreements entails that Russia’s Joint Stock Company ‘Rusatom Service’ would undertake assessment and development of nuclear infrastructure in Zambia and another one for the preliminary site survey for the Center of Nuclear Science and Technology in Zambia.
The agreement was signed with Russia’s Joint Stock Company ASE Engineering Company president Valeriy Limarenko. According to the agreement, ASE Engineering Company will soon start field works on the prospective site to acquire data for design and construction of the facility.
At the same occasion, Ministry of Energy Permanent Secretary Emelda Chola also signed an agreement with Pakermanov for the execution of pre-feasibility and feasibility studies of the nuclear power plant to be constructed in Zambia. Pakermanov pledged Russia’s commitment to assist Zambia develop its nuclear science and technology sector.
“Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation is ready to render maximum assistance to our Zambian partners in the development of their national nuclear science and technology sector.
“The agreements signed today represent a very important step in the implementation of the project. We expect that the general contract for construction of the Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology will be agreed upon and signed before the end of 2017,” added Pakermanov.
AtomExpo is a major exhibition and business platform for conducting meetings and negotiations between the worldwide leaders of the nuclear power industry.
The purpose of the Forum is to provide the leaders of nuclear power industry and nuclear power engineering with an opportunity to publicly define the place and role of nuclear generation in the 21st century energy balance analyze the main challenges, issues and scenarios of development of the energy market worldwide.
The expo was attended by representatives from 168 countries this year. Despite grappling with power deficits in 2015 and 2016, Zambia’s power generating capacity has improved to 1,901MW versus a 1,900MW at peak hour.
Addressing Zambian lawmakers recently, Energy Minister David Mabumba said power generation has increased to about 1,900 megawatts following various initiatives by the Government to up the power generation in Zambia, in which the mines consume an average 55 percent of the total output.
The improvement has been attributed to among other initiatives, Government increasing generation at Kafue gorge power station from 630MW to 900MW against a 900MW installed capacity.
What has helped Zambia increase energy output include the rise in water levels in Lake Kariba, which according to Zambezi River Authority estimating at 2.74m above minimum dam operating levels of 974m which ZESCO has instituted spilling gate measures to manage levels.
The Kariba North Bank contributes 380MW against a 1,080MW installed capacity. The Kariba is 5.25m above the 475.5m minimum dam operational level against the 488.5m maximum desired level as at 13 March.
The Itezhi Tezhi Reservoir dam is currently at 1,027.91m representing 82% of its full storage capacity generating 82MW against 120MW installed capacity. The Victoria Falls is firing 118MW of power to the grid. Maamba Thermal Coal plant is contributing 300MW to the grid.
Total generation capacity from ZESCO stands at 1,493MW while Independent Power Production – IPP contributes an additional 493MW pushing the total to 1,901MW versus a peak demand of 1,900MW.
The IPPs include Lunsemfwa Hydro and Maamba Thermal. Average demand oscillates around 1,608MW. Zambia still has to import about 75MW From Mozambique, added Mabumba.