Zimbabwe joins Rosatom’s push for nuclear technology in Africa, eyes use in agric

Energy Minister Zhemu Soda and Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev sign MoU in Austria, Sept 20

Zimbabwe is joining a push by Russia’s Rosatom to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy across Africa, with an MoU being signed in Europe on Monday.

Energy Minister Zhemu Soda and Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev signed the MoU on the sidelines of the IAEA General Conference in Austria, the first such agreement between Russia and Zimbabwe in the field of peaceful uses of atomic energy.

Rosatom is the world’s biggest nuclear company by foreign orders, accounting for 76% of global nuclear technology exports, and as over the past five years looked to expand its reach into Africa.

The MoU does not suggest a nuclear power plant in Zimbabwe is imminent, as the two sides want to explore the use of nuclear technology outside of power generation.

“The document creates a basis for cooperation in a wide range of areas such as projects in the sphere of non-power applications of atomic energy in industry, agriculture and medicine. Particular attention deems to focus at personnel training for the national atomic industry of Zimbabwe and public acceptance of nuclear energy,” Rosatom said in a statement.

Monday’s MoU follows an announcement by Cabinet in April that the MoU would “lay a foundation for the execution of the agreed areas of cooperation”.

Previously, Rosatom has touted the use of nuclear technology in agriculture and medicine.

“In agriculture, nuclear applications are used to combat pests and diseases, increase crop production, protect land and water resources, ensure food safety and authenticity, and increase livestock production,” Rosatom says on its website.

“In medicine, it is widely used in diagnosis as well as treatment of chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiac disorders. This makes part of the case why African countries should go nuclear as agriculture remains the mainstay of many of the countries, and given their health burden that feeds medical tourism in India.”

Zimbabwe is only the latest of a number of African countries to sign similar MoUs with Rosatom.

In 2019, Rosatom signed an agreement with Rwanda to build a center for scientific research and ‘practical application’ of nuclear technologies for use in agriculture and other areas.

There have been other agreements with Zambia, NIgeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Ethiopia and others.

This would not be the first time that Rosatom shows interest in Zimbabwe. Last year, Prospect Resources, which is developing a lithium mine at Goromonzi, signed an MoU with Uranium One, the Canada-based unit of Rosatom, opening talks for a possible deal by the Russian miner to buy over half of the lithium from Arcadia mine and take up shares in the company.