|Fig. 1: Fig.1: Kogi State (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
Nuclear reactors are an important energy source. Many countries, particularly in Africa, have started embracing nuclear power as an electricity source. Russia, which possesses a vast knowledge of nuclear technology, is assisting in many cases, and has signed Memoranda of Understanding with a number of countries. The proposed business arrangements are complex, for nuclear energy has both advantages and disadvantages. There is a need in particular to avoid weapons proliferation. 
Nigeria has plans to build a nuclear power plant in Geragu, Kogi State. The logic is that present-day energy needs are not being met. Though Nigeria thus has other sources of electricity such as hydro and thermal, nuclear energy is to be added to the mix to cover the large deficit.
Nigeria is one of the most populous countries in Africa. Although its development index in the continent is poor, its nominal GDP is the highest in the continent. The annual GDP of Nigeria for 2019 was estimated by the World Bank at 448 USD Billion.  Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa and has a growing middle-class population. It has a total population of over 206 M. 
For such a large country, it's no surprise that there is huge energy demand. With decades of massive investments in energy supply and despite many natural resources, the country still struggles to maintain a meagre 4000 MW of electricity which is grossly inadequate for the country's energy needs. To try to fix these energy problems, the Federal Government of Nigeria decided to diversify its electricity sources from the present combination of biomass and waste, hydro, thermal etc., to include nuclear power to meet its electricity generation target. This target has had phases. The first phase known as "The Vision 20:2020" which was set in the year 2010, projected that the country should produce 40,000 MW of electric power to position itself among the prominent economies of the world by the year 2020. However, this was not the case, as 2020 elapsed and the country still has an installed generation capacity of 12,522 MW depending largely on gas-fired thermal power and hydropower sources; 10,142 MW and 2380 MW, respectively. Based on this scenario, the federal government targeted another electricity vision 30:30:30 in achieving a technology-driven sector that can harness the nations resources towards complimenting the rapid energy demand 
In 2015, the Nigerian atomic energy commission selected Geragu in Kogi State and Itu in Akwa-Ibom State as the site for generating about 2400 MW of electricity. The estimated cost was approximated at 20 Billion dollars. This is equivalent to 8 Trillion Nigerian Naira which is a huge amount for the developing country. 
Nigeria has not made much progress in the area of development of the Nuclear industry. It had a game plan, but for undisclosed reasons, it appears that the sector to still be a dream. It is not surprising to see how much opposition nuclear energy in Nigeria has faced. 
Citizens of Nigeria have met this great development with mixed feelings. However, these two sides have a common ground: they want development.
Nigerians still live-in frequent blackouts and brownouts. The periods of brownouts vary from location to location. I have experienced the rationing ratio of a particular locality when I came to Nigeria, specifically in Ogun State. They had an average of three hours light every day, and the timing was scheduled. Though there are other places in Nigeria with worse power situations, such as Borno State, and other with a more stable electricity supply, such like the nation's capital in Abuja, one thing is common" brownouts occur very frequently. The variation in the structure makes it hard and impractical to measure the frequency of these occurrences.
Nigeria has put in a considerable effort to generate electricity through various means. But the inadequacy is not just lack of generating capacity but also poor maintenance. The sad truth is that Nigeria's present facilities can produce about 11500 MW of electrical power instead of the 4000 MW it presently produces. Following this logic, we know that most of the existing infrastructure has become dilapidated due to a lack of regular maintenance. The dependence on an oil-based generation of electricity is also economically problematic, as Nigeria does not possess enough refinery capacity to process crude oil, which is its natural export.
No maintenance budgets are made known to the public concerning the power sector. As an evidence of poor planning, usually a lump sum is given to the power sector at the beginning of the year. Since checks and balances are almost non-existent, many of the power contractor companies get away with shoddy work that might not be identified for years, extending to decades, before catastrophic failures. Nothing is made public about the distribution of the allocated resources. What is made available to the media are reports of projects that have been done. Then a figure is put on them, and no one asks questions, or rather no one answers any probing questions.
The issue of maintenance is evident even on the streets of Nigeria. There are many ring main unit and feeder pillars which are placed in dangerous locations where children have access to them. It is not unusual to see overhead cables carrying power sagging from the poles up to the point that, with a little effort, you can reach out to it. Meters are not used in many communities. Therefore, a monthly bill is passed to those areas, and those that default from paying are cut off from light. These people then go to the pole themselves and reconnect the disconnected cables. This is easy to do because the cables are just scattered on the poles. People easily find any disconnected cable and connect it to the main line. Thus, while not much is made known about the national grid, one very frequently hears that there is an issue in the national grid. According to the Guardian Newspaper, a Nigerian local news publication, from November 2013 to December 2020, there were 126 occasions where there was failure at the National grid that plunged the country into darkness. These frequent failures help us understand the severity of the maintenance problems.
Also, due to the poor game-plan, there are hardly any calculations for even load distribution. Newly constructed houses that need electricity therefore look for any available outlet of power, which sometimes is directly from the transmission pole. These actions cause overloading in some areas, which then leads to equipment failure.
Therefore, there is some skepticism among the people about plans for nuclear energy, and concerns that it would not address the real problem. There are also concerns that nuclear energy might result in catastrophe if properly handled.
Nigeria still has the ambition to embrace nuclear energy. But, despite resources and help from Russia, it has not been able to achieve its goal of getting nuclear power on the grid by 2020.
But the solution to its energy crisis does not necessarily lie in nuclear energy. It may lie instead in the ability to maintain existing infrastructure. Checks and balances should be present, so that energy plans for the country are actually feasible and not just pipe dreams, also bearing in mind that they are required to protect its existing infrastructure while safeguarding the life of its citizens.
© Temiloluwa Bolodeoku. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
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