2 September 2010 – Tanzania has asked East African countries to start developing nuclear power as the cheapest source of electricity in the region where only 12 per cent of rural areas is connected. Mantra Tanzania Limited is expected to start mining uranium, which fuels nuclear power plants , by 2012 at Namtumbo in the southern part of the country.

The nearly infinite energy that is stored in uranium atoms makes nuclear power possible. Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission director general Iddi Mkilaha on Wednesday said that balancing energy needs and supply would not be met by conventional and renewable power such as wind and solar.

“Coal and natural gas are sus tainable in a limited time span but long term solution to energy deficit can only be met by nuclear energy,” he told an Eas t African Power Industry Convention in Nairobi.

The three-day meeting at Safari Park Hotel is aimed at sharing information on strategies to grow power sector in East Africa in tandem with projected socioeconomic changes in respective economies.

Prof Mkilaha said renewable energy’s generation unit cost and inves tment requirements are high but in long term a nuclear energy plant can operate for 60 to 80 years meaning that costs come down with time. He said that Africa countries have huge tracts of land, which are not in use noting these could be used to build underground nuclear reactors.

Extensive public awareness Prof Mkilaha said countries that choose nuclear power would have to conduct extensive public awareness. People often get confused between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons, which entail a separate technology altogether.

Energy PS Patrick Nyoike told the meeting that provision of reliable, adequate and affordable electricity is critical to poverty eradication through employment and wealth creation.