Sunday, 29 November 2015

We Don't Your Nuclear Power-Akwa-ibom People Tell FG

COMMUNITY leaders in Akwa Ibom State have rejected a federal government proposal to build a nuclear plant aimed at addressing the chronic shortage of power across the country in the state.

Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, remains plagued by a perennial shortage of electricity and to address this, the administration of former president Dr Goodluck Jonathan, proposed building two nuclear power plants. One of the plants was to be located in Akwa Ibom State and according to Erapamo Osaisai, the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, they would generate over 1,200megawatts of electricity.

According to Mr Osaisai, the proposed sites for the nuclear plants suggested by the previous government are Akwa Ibom State and Kogi State. Following the election of a new government, Mr Osaisia has resubmitted his plans to vice president Professor Yemi Osinbajo and handed in a report to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Mr Osaisai said: “Our nuclear power plants are huge machines and what we are planning is, each of the power plants will be generating power in excess of 1,200 megawatts. We are a member of the IAEA and our responsibility as a country is to utilise nuclear power in the safest way possible.

“What Nigeria is doing is diversifying our energy generation base beyond gas and hydro to include other sources, for which nuclear is also being considered."

However, the people of Akwa Ibom have rejected the proposal and have continued to kick against the proposal since it became public. Tommy Okon, the president of Akwa Ibom Community, Abuja, has led the opposition to the plan.

Mr Okon said: “We reject anything that is not in the interest of our state and our people and we reject the plan to build nuclear plant in Akwa Ibom State. We have rejected it before, we are rejecting it now and we will continue to reject it.

 “The risk of our people living with a nuclear plant in their community is far higher than the benefits. If Nigeria cannot take adequate safety pre-caution against chlorine leakage from a simple water treatment plant, how can they handle the safety needs in a complex nuclear plant?”

Recently re-elected for a second term in office as the president of the community, Mr Okon was speaking at his inauguration and his remarks drew applause from the audience, which included the Akwa Ibom State commissioner for commerce and industry Emmanuel Enoidem, who represented Governor Udom Emmanuel at the event. Others there included President Muhammadu Buhari's senior special assistant on national assembly matters Ita Enang, and the All Progressives Congress deputy governorship candidate in the state, Benedict Ukpong.

According to Mr Okon, the likely exposure of the people and the environment to harmful radioactive materials should discourage the federal government from going ahead with the plan to build nuclear plants in any part of the country. He said, the July 2015 chlorine cylinder explosion from a water treatment plant that killed eight people and left 100 others hospitalized in Jos, Plateau State should serve as a warning.

“The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 should be a lesson for us. Decades after that incident, thousands of people were still dying of cancer across Russia and the entire Europe because of radioactive gas.

“If the developed countries of the world could get struck with terrible nuclear disasters, even with their advanced technology, their high maintenance culture and safety consciousness, it is only better for us to imagine what would have happened in Nigeria if we had been using nuclear energy in this country,” Mr. Okon added



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