Following the Fukushima incident earlier this year the dangers associated with nuclear power generation have again been brought to the front burners. With heightened concerns about the safety of nuclear power plants, it is shocking to see the Nigerian President pushing Nigeria unto the nuclear path. This may appear like a dream come true for the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission, but this has all the potential of turning into a nightmare for the country.

The Nigerian government appears to be scheming to get deeper into the nuclear mire at a time when the world is inching, albeit slowly, from dirty and dangerous energy sources. The fact that Nigeria has one of the worst electricity supplies in the world, with only about 40% of the population having access to public power supply does not justify toeing the nuclear path. It calls for investing in safe forms of renewable energy production. It also calls for the wastage in the gas and oil fields.

Having promised to overcome the electricity poverty in Nigeria, the president focus appears to have been captured by nuclear hawks and hawkers. While recently speaking to the Atomic Energy Commission, the president stated, "We all know the importance of atomic energy. We have plans to generate power from atomic energy and we must pursue it seriously." He them charged the agency "to come up with time-lines for the delivery of atomic energy to our people" and assured that the resources needed for the task will be not be a problem.

The problem is that apart from the vagaries of nuclear power plant construction, running and decommissioning, the Nigerian context raises unusual risks that should not permit anyone to bring this on at all.

A good lesson can be learned from Germany where a realisation of the depth of the dangers of nuclear power plants has led the government to announce a phase out nuclear power by 2022. Siemens, the company responsible for fabricating the nuclear plants in Germany has also announced that it is closing that aspect of their business. This is interesting. Atomic power companies can retool and invest rather in the renewable energy business, for instance, rather than dump their toxic technology in gullible nations like ours.

From recent nuclear accidents, including the one at Fukushima, it has become clear that when such accidents occur the authorities get very economical with the information about the levels of radiation released into communities. In a country where simpler environmental information is not readily available, it is doubtful that people would be warned at all of dangers in situations where nuclear incidents arise. As we write, thousands are protesting in Japan against the contamination of foods and water and are demanding a move from Nuclear power.

With all the information on the dangers of gas flares and oil spills, no serious actions are being taken to curtail the spills or to stop the flaring. Even when communities (for example in Ogoniland) are informed that their water is poisoned and capable of causing cancers, government takes no action and allows the people to continue to slake their thirst with poison. Our cities, including Kano and Kaduna have heavily polluted rivers on which people depend; yet they are not told that the water they drink is not potable.

When reactor cores malfunction nuclear meltdowns occur. Radiation released from meltdowns and other causes impact all biodiversity and pose serious ecological problems. The first recorded partial meltdown occurred in 1952 at a plant in Ontario, Canada. Radioactive explosion at the Soviet Union's Mayak reprocessing site in 1957 contributed to 200 deaths and forced the evacuation of 10,000 people. The 1979 incident at the Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania became world famous until its record was eclipsed by the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine in 1988 where lives were lost and 600,000 persons were evacuated. Some estimates claim that up to 4000 died from the ensuing radiation.

The danger with nuclear power generation actually starts from the mining of uranium and goes right on to the disposal of the wastes. When it comes to maintenance issues, Nigeria's track record is abysmal. How well have we maintained our existing hydro and thermal power stations?

Nuclear power is neither cheap nor climate neutral. The heavy constructions of the facilities depend on the use of fossil fuels that are release massive amounts of greenhouse gases. Environmental, labour and human rights infringements accompany the uranium extractive processes.

How would the Atomic Energy providers handle nuclear wastes, including wastes from materials used in the nuclear fission process? It is known fact that spent uranium rods have very high levels of toxins and radiation. It is also known that nuclear wastes can be stolen and can fall into the hands of persons who could use them in unexpected, unregulated ways. Another matter relates to cost overruns, political manipulations and corruption of the nuclear sort.

At this time of planetary crises, the direction to go is investment in renewable energy generation. This would safeguard the climate, create sustainable jobs that are not dependent on dangerous destructive extraction and help build the foundations for movement on a green path. Our president certainly does not want to foist a nuclear nightmare on Nigeria.

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ERA has recently received information that a group calling itself the "Niger Delta Coalition in the Diaspora" is still engaging itself in activities and communications giving the impression that it is linked with Environmental Rights Action (ERA).

This group issues out communications using ERA's headquarter address and mail box. We have never had any ties with this group and any views, comments or opinions expressed by them is not endorsed or authorized by any member of management or staff of ERA.

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