An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts has carried out an eight-day mission to Niger to review its infrastructure development for a nuclear energy programme.

Niger’s economic development is hampered by a lack of consistent electricity supply and the country is considering a potential role for nuclear power in its energy mix.

With a population of about 21 million people in west Africa, Niger is currently ranked as the world’s fourth largest producer of uranium ore.

The Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) was carried out at the invitation of the Niger government and it said it “observed a strong government commitment to developing the infrastructure for a nuclear power programme”.

The government has established a Strategic Orientation Committee for the nuclear programme chaired by Prime Minister Brigi Rafini, and a National Technical Committee for the programme.

Those two committees form the Nuclear Energy Programme Implementing Organization. Niger has already completed or initiated several studies related to nuclear infrastructure development and prepared a comprehensive report summarizing the results.

“The INIR mission was conducted in a cooperative and open atmosphere,” said team leader Anthony Stott of the IAEA’s Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section. “We had good discussions during the mission which provided further information to the team for each of the 19 infrastructure issues that are addressed during an INIR mission.”

The team comprised international experts from France, Morocco, Spain, and the UK as well as IAEA staff. It made recommendations and suggestions, highlighting areas where further action would benefit Niger, including: developing an integrated view of the overall nuclear power plant project costs, continuing to assess and develop the legal and regulatory framework and ensuring that all necessary elements of a national policy and strategy for safety are taken into account, and strengthening the management and documentation of the activities being undertaken for developing the nuclear power programme.

The team also identified good practices that would benefit other countries considering the introduction of nuclear power, including the strong connection between the two committees that form the NEPIO, and the engagement with neighbouring countries to inform them of Niger’s plans.