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Presidential aide allays fears over nuclear energy plant in A/Ibom

Ita Enang, senior special assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Niger Delta Affairs, has allayed fears over the proposed nuclear energy plant in Akwa Ibom State, saying an Environmental Impact Assessment was being undertaken to determine the safety of the project.

He said this would ascertain the safety and benefits or otherwise of locating the multimillion nuclear energy plant to the people and on the environment.

Speaking in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, Ita Enang, a former member of the seventh National Assembly said the report from the EIA of the energy plant would point to which direction the Federal Government would follow, whether to site the plant in Akwa Ibom or not.

“It is an ongoing discussion why they are doing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA); is to determine a yes or a no. So, what the public is doing now is reacting to the EIA. This reaction will advise the final action of the Federal Government. We have to find out what the people really want and the effect. There is no other alternative to doing it. It is not only power that it is used for, there are other positive uses.

“People should be calm and make their submissions; there should not be any violence about it. The Federal Government will take a decision based on the environmental impact assessment. I am also gathering inputs of the people and that of the state government and we will use that to advise the Federal Government,” he said.

There have been oppositions from many quarters over the location of the project in Itu Local Government Area of the state with environmental rights campaigners saying the dangers would outweigh the benefits of the plant.

The Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) had in 2017 proposed to site a Nuclear Energy Plant in Oku Iboku area of Akwa Ibom state, saying that it would be an alternative energy source in the country.

Earlier, NAEC had embarked on an enlightenment campaign on the nuclear energy power project in the state beginning in Uyo, the state capital.

The awareness campaign drew audience from traditional rulers, community leaders, women, youths, professionals, and the political class under the theme ‘Sustainable and Reliable Energy for Economic Growth.’

In his remarks, the Project Manager, Nigeria Nuclear Power, Matthew Agu, stated that there were numerous benefits of nuclear power plant in a locality.

Agu said that nuclear energy was friendly, safe and cheaper than thermal and solar; stressing that nuclear energy was quite environmental-friendly, saying the industry plays an important role in the socio-economic growth of the country.

This ranges from job creation, provision of basic amenities to generation of substantial domestic economic value in electricity sales and revenue.

“A recent analysis has found that nuclear power plants create some of the largest economic benefits compared to other electric generating technologies due to their size and number of workers needed for the operation of the plants. Operation of nuclear plant requires 800 to 1, 200 direct permanent jobs per reactor,” Agu said.

He explained that the challenge confronting the establishment of nuclear plant in spite of the numerous benefits was acceptance by the people.

In a paper presented by Okon Ansa, on behalf of Itu Concerned Patriot, he said that the concern of the people was problems of safe storage of waste material.

Ansa said that in case of accident in Nuclear Plant, the country has no ability to manage the emergency crisis that may emanate from the nuclear plant.

He added that the establishment of nuclear plant would pose threat to national security because the nuclear plant materials could enter wrong hands.

He said that the establishment of nuclear plant in the community would adversely affect the means of livelihood of the people which are fishing and farming.

According to Ansa, “Notwithstanding the numerous advantages of generating power from a nuclear plant as canvassed by NAEC in this enlightenment campaign, we feel very strongly and professionally that it will be counter-productive to site such a plant in the state in view of the aforementioned issues.

“It is necessary to note that no matter the correctness of technical, economic and legal considerations in the sitting of any project, the granting of social license (acceptance) by the people is paramount for project sustainability.

“We strongly believe that we are speaking the minds of Akwa Ibom citizens in this submission and posterity will exonerate us from blame for the negative consequences of any inadvertent nuclear disaster,” Ansa said.

In the same way, the chairman of Itu Local Government Area, Etetim Onuk, expressed deep concerns and fears over the proposed location of a nuclear energy power project, stressing that it was with grave dangers to the residents.

“Without sounding immodest, let me state emphatically that from the conception of this idea to site a nuclear plant in some parts of Itu Local Government Area, the elders, stakeholders, traditional rulers and the political class had risen in unison to oppose it,” he said.

He rather said Akwa Ibom State as major oil and gas bearing community, the Federal Government should be thinking of establishing refineries and gas turbines, instead of introducing anti-people projects.

 

ANIEFIOK UDONQUAK, Uyo

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