At the Atomexpo held in Sochi on Monday, Russia announced a three-year deal with Ethiopia this week, which the content is to establish cooperation on the construction of a nuclear power plant. This deal is involved in the roadmap of Russia developing strategic ties with countries in the Horn of Africa. Russia intends to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the field of peaceful use of atomic energy. Besides from Ethiopia, Egypt just signed the memorandum of understanding with Russian nuclear companies, in which the agreement is to raise public awareness of atomic energy and to train personnel for nuclear power plant construction (NPP construction).
(photo credit to: www.observerbd.com)
Russia’s nuclear projects came to existence after the US cancelled the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in February 2019. INF is a mutual agreement on arms control but the US withdrew for the reason that Russia and even China have not been abiding by. Such case raised the issue of security not only between the US and Russia but also other countries.
African need for electricity
Being as the world’s first nuclear energy, Russia aims to not only develop the socio-economy domestically but also export to meet the world’s demand. World Nuclear Association claimed that at least seven other sub-Sharan African states have signed agreements with the support from Russia to establish nuclear power plants. Russia, as the biggest nuclear power export, meets the eastern African’s demand for electricity. Some countries in the eastern Africa, particularly Ethiopia, mainly rely on River Nile to produce electricity and, with droughts occurring more and more often, the demand for electricity rapidly increases. World Bank’s data reveals that 6 out of 10 sub-Saharan Africans are lack of access to electricity. Emerging nuclear countries in Africa (Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zambia, Ghana, Ethiopia) have since 2016 gradually signed agreements with Russia on NPP construction. Nuclear power is considered to be affordable and efficient supply for the massive population in need for electricity.
Nuclear power involves in INF
With the cancellation of INF between the US and Russia as well as that more countries receiving support from Russia to create nuclear power, this has raised concerns about the relations between the US and Russia as well as the international security. Though the INF is known to be psychological game, which is that the reduce of arms and forces from the adversary are always uncertain. Producing more to deter the other but at the same time is against the treaty. Hence, the INF has always been ups and downs after cold war but is always the core of the relations between the US and Russia. Now that more countries are going to deploy nuclear power, the concerns are that it may be a preface of a new cold war between the US and Russia.
The US toward Saudi Arabia
Nevertheless, Russia is not the only one supporting other countries on nuclear power. The US tried to improve nuclear technology in Saudi Arabia, which is claimed to be against Atomic Energy Act. Saudi Arabia intends to increase 15% on nuclear energy by 2032. As the US has been hoping to revive the nuclear industry, exporting nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia seems to fit both sides’ interests. Under the pressure of non-proliferation of nuclear power, the US stated that exporting nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia is strictly bound by the Saudi Non-proliferation Act.
INF has long been a pillar in the post cold war era defining the world’s arms control. The US cancellation seems to mark the tensions with Russia. In the case of nuclear export, it is obvious that the US aiding Saudi Arabia while Russia supporting eastern African countries. Just across Red Sea, worries are that the tensions between Russia and the US get worse and that nuclear energy may fall into nuclear weaponry. The deterioration of the US and Russia’s relations are believed to be a potential for power competition and that the nuclear technology export may come into utilization.
As ICRD holds that the safety for the international society is the main concern for every country on earth, we mandate that the nuclear power should be deployed under strict surveillance in order to prevent from the instability to the world’s peace.
Author: Yung Lin, Researcher at ICRD