Over the past few years, Russian universities in collaboration with the state corporation Rosatom have been carrying out an important humanitarian mission of training for the emerging nuclear industry of Africa.
Currently, hundreds of the students from the continent studying at nuclear universities in Russia have excellent educational and career opportunities in their countries and worldwide. Rosatom holds ambitious information and educational program all over the world, aimed at promoting Russian education and advanced nuclear technologies, including in non-energy sectors.
Two of the programs’ participants, Prince Asabi Boakye from Ghana and Bertha Mumba from Zambia, consider this project as an important step towards disseminating adequate knowledge about nuclear technologies in Africa. Prince has recently graduated from Tomsk Polytechnic University and was among the speakers for the program. Bertha also graduated from Moscow Engineering Physics Institute this July with nuclear energy engineer degree.
– What is the program about and why is it important for African students?
P.A.: – The program is about promoting nuclear education. This is to address the issue of poor power generation in some countries in Africa, like Ghana. The project helps African students to gain more knowledge to be implemented in their native countries.
Again, the program helps to connect with many people from different organizations and different universities as well. This gives us the chance of getting new ideas and possible future recommendations.
B.M.: – The program aims to promote nuclear education and technologies around the world, not just in Africa. For African students it’s a chance to learn more about nuclear power, meet and interact with amazing like-minded people from various countries and universities, and learn various real-world skills such as event planning, presentation skills, diplomatic skills (because you’ll be attending various conferences and going to universities to hold events), and social media skills (because it’s a very important part of the job).
– What is your personal story? Why did you decide to become part of the project?
P.A.: – My motive for leaving Ghana to study nuclear science was to get a variety of ideas. Hearing about this project made a good choice to get additional knowledge apart from the academic works. My first days at the academy were exciting and educative. This never stopped but gave a great knowledge to me as time went on.
B.M.: – I knew nothing about nuclear technology before coming to Russia; the only nuclear item I’ve known were nuclear bombs. When I heard about the news that Zambia had decided to go nuclear, I was concerned, and I had to do some research on the subject. That’s when I discovered that nuclear technology is much more than most people realize. I learned about nuclear energy while living in Zambia, but it wasn’t until I moved to Russia to study that I learned about various non-energy nuclear applications, such as agriculture, nuclear medicine, and other benefits including scientific research, transportation, water resources, and the environment.
Because I had no knowledge in the nuclear sphere, I believed that there must be someone in Zambia who is unaware of the benefits of nuclear technology. Due to taking part in this project, I am able to disseminate information about the nuclear in Zambia and encourage other individuals to get involved in this.
Why is it important to promote nuclear education in Africa?
P.A.: – Ghana in the past years has started to build up a lot of factories. Most of these factories need high electric power for operation. Nuclear energy has been the country’s choice. It is therefore prudent to promote nuclear education in order for it to be accepted by many citizens when the main project commences.
Statistically, according to the Energy Commission of Ghana, the installed generation capacity decreased by 2.2% in 2020 over the 2019 value of 5,172 MW, whereas peak demand increased by 10.2% in 2020 over the 2019 value of 2,804 MW. It is therefore reasonable to have a reliable source of energy to address this issue.
Again, nuclear is environmentally friendly. According to the IEA, the use of nuclear power has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by more than 60 gigatonnes over the past 50 years. This has given me a good assurance to support the nuclear education for Africans. At least in some years to come, governments will not have to bear extra cost to curb global warming since CO2 emissions would be minimal.
B.M.: – Nuclear power is not a popular topic in Zambia; in fact, many people equate it with nuclear weapons, while others argue it is unsafe, and many are frightened about nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl. People should be aware that nuclear energy is one of the most environmentally friendly forms of energy, as it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions during electricity generation than traditional sources such as coal power plants. Nuclear power facilities have advanced in recent years as a result of tragedies such as Chernobyl, which served as a lesson, and numerous improvements have been made since then.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was established in 1957 as a subsidiary of the United Nations with the mission of promoting peaceful applications of nuclear energy and ensuring that the “nuclear club” member countries do not divert nuclear materials for military purposes.
Thanks to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which established a framework for expanding access to peaceful applications of nuclear energy, such as nuclear power plants that may provide both electricity and jobs. Agricultural productivity is boosted by nuclear technology. In Africa, nuclear science also aids in the detection of animal diseases.
IAEA assists various countries in using nuclear technology to detect and cure cancer and other diseases. Early identification of Ebola in Africa is aided by nuclear tools. Scientists use nuclear technology to better study and handle environmental challenges such as climate change. It can also aid in the detection of contamination in marine waters and the fight against ocean acidification. These are some of the most important aspects of nuclear safety, as well as some of the advantages that people should be aware of. It is our responsibility as project participants to spread the word about these and other benefits so that as many people as possible are aware of them and no longer fear. These benefits can help to develop Africa in terms of health, energy, economy, etc.
What awaits foreign students who graduate from Russian universities?
P.A.: – Russia is recognized globally to be among the countries with one of the best technologies in nuclear. Student graduated from the universities in Russia are easily absorbed into the job market.
The most active project participants and students, who participate in additional activities and events, have more advantages in employment and may receive good references from universities and event organizers.
B.M.: – Since Russia is at the forefront of nuclear technology, a degree in nuclear engineering is likely to land you a job.
What recommendations can you give to future participants of the program?
P.A.: – Participants in the project are given wider knowledge about nuclear. We are trained in career objectives to make good choices. Also, we gain many free skills through their numerous programs organized.
Students who take part in such programs should, however, be willing to appropriately schedule their time so it does not conflict with their academic works. I strongly recommend that anyone who gets the chance should participate.
B.M.: – I recommend taking part in the academy’s events because you will learn a variety of real-world skills, such as the ones I described above. During events, ask questions to learn more about nuclear power and what it entails. Participate in group meetings, discuss ideas, and communicate with other participants. Never stop learning and having a good time.
 National Energy Statistics. April, 2020, p.16. [Electronic Resource].
 Nicole Jawerth (2020). What is the Clean Energy Transition and How Does Nuclear Power Fit In? [Electronic Resource]. URL: https://www.iaea.org/nuclear-power-and-the-clean-energy-transition/what-is-the-clean-energy-transition-and-how-does-nuclear-power-fit-in