March 14, 2007 / 2:31 PM / 13 years ago

Senegal's Wade hopes to build nuclear power plant

DAKAR, March 14 (Reuters) - Senegal’s newly re-elected President Abdoulaye Wade has contacted foreign experts to advise on building a nuclear power plant, part of an ambitious programme to develop the country’s creaking infrastructure.

Wade, who won a second five-year term in a landslide re-election last month, has already started building new five-star hotels and airports in the West African country and has plans for museums, theatres and a nuclear plant.

“It was not just a statement he made during the campaign,” one of his advisers, Christian Sina Diatta, told pro-government daily newspaper Le Soleil in its Wednesday edition.

“It’s an option the head of state has been working on for some time and he has already been in contact with nuclear powers who are behind Senegal,” he said. He gave no details on which countries had been contacted for advice.

Power shortages continue to hamper economic development across sub-Saharan Africa.

In Senegal, one of the most stable countries in West Africa, regular blackouts — some of them lasting more than 10 hours — forced the government to requisition oil stocks late last year.

Despite increasing world interest in nuclear power as an alternative to coal and oil-powered generation, massive costs and a lack of specialists could scupper Africa’s nuclear ambitions, at least in the medium term, energy experts say.

They say large regional markets for nuclear power need to be developed before such big investments become viable.

If Wade’s plan comes to fruition, it could be energy-starved Africa’s first nuclear power plant outside South Africa. Egypt, Nigeria and Tunisia have also announced intentions to build nuclear power stations in the long term.

Grand infrastructure projects such as a new coastal highway around the capital Dakar and the promise of new schools helped Wade win re-election in the Feb. 25 polls, although many of the city’s rubbish-strewn suburbs are mired in poverty.

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