How Stupid is Too Stupid?

Global IQ Score Population Averages

Global IQ Score Population Average Estimates by Nation

Too Stupid for What?

Consider that Russia wants to bring nuclear power plants to sub Saharan Africa. Given the crucial roles of maintenance and intelligent monitoring to nuclear plant safety, would building nuclear power plants in Africa be a good idea?

Different tasks require different levels of cognitive aptitude. A successful theoretical particle physicist is likely to be brighter than the average community organiser or political activist, for example. Nuclear plant engineers and technicians should have higher average IQs than most government bureaucrats or news media workers.

Here is a broad look at different IQ estimates needed for different occupations:

 Occupations and IQ Requirements

Occupations and IQ

Kenya wants to build nuclear power plants in order to boost prosperity within the impoverished, low-IQ, high violence nation. Is the average IQ within Kenya high enough for the nation to field enough qualified people to run a nuclear power plant safely?


According to the Wikipedia table above, the average population IQ in Kenya is 72. Given what we know about normal IQ distributions, fewer than 1% of Kenyans would be qualified to complete a rigorous 4 year college curriculum. Fewer than 0.1% of Kenyans could qualify as competent nuclear engineers or technicians, given the maths and computer requirements.

Normal IQ Distribution Modern Population

Normal IQ Distribution Modern Population

The normal curve above has a mean of 100 and standard deviation of 15. Imagine if the mean were instead 70, with the same standard deviation. Given what is known about IQ requirements for different occupations, intelligent nuclear technicians in Africa would be as scarce as Physics Nobel Prize or maths Fields Prize winners might be in today’s France, even if the entire nation backed a program of training indigenous nuclear techs, engineers, and physicists. There are simply not enough bright people there to begin with.

There is no concept of “maintenance” in most native African languages. This is reflected in a lack of meaningful maintenance for high tech systems in sub Saharan Africa in general. Nations without sufficient trainable people, without a sense of maintenance for technical systems, would not seem to be ideal places to build nuclear power plants.

And yet,the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) has endorsed Kenya’s aspirations to build nuclear power plants in the East African nation. But then, the average IQ of IAEA functionaries may not be any higher than that of the typical government bureaucrat.

We know why Russia or China might wish to build nuclear power plants in Africa. The income and influence from construction and ongoing operations would be considerable, and would come at a good time for the struggling economies of both league nations. But if we can see in advance that maintenance and safety standards would not likely be sufficient to prevent deadly mass casualty accidents, why would any intelligent person of integrity back such a development plan?

An average IQ below 90 should be taken as a strong disincentive for any population considering building and operating a conventional nuclear power plant. Nuclear power will not work in the long run for sub Saharan Africa. The only way nuclear power might work for tribal / clan nations such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, or Pakistan, is if the nation could afford to hire outside expertise for all critical aspects of construction, operation, and decommissioning — for the duration. Without constant outside supervision — even in mid-IQ nations of the tribal world — a catastrophic accident becomes almost a certainty over time.

Among the biggest ambitions for constructing nuclear power plants were Algeria’s plans to build two reactors to produce 2,400 megawatts (MW) by 2030; Egypt’s to build four reactors, producing 4,800 MW by 2030, Ghana’s to build one reactor producing 1,000 MW by 2025, Kenya’s plans to build four reactors producing 4,000 MW by 2033, Morocco’s to build its first reactor by 2030, Nigeria’s plans to build four reactors, producing 4,000 MW by 2027 and South Africa’s to add six to eight new reactors, producing an extra 9,600 MW by 2030.

Khlopkov said Russia was the biggest exporters of nuclear technology in the world, constructing 25% of nuclear power plants currently, converting 25% and enriching 45% of uranium, providing 17% of nuclear fuel and reprocessing 10% of spent nuclear fuel.


Russia and China want the business. But they are unlikely to stick around for the cleanup. It is not in their nature to look beyond the immediate advantage, to the deeper risks.

This entry was posted in Africa, IQ, Nuclear Power and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to How Stupid is Too Stupid?

  1. DJGB says:

    If a country like Kenya ever ends up building a nuclear reactor it would work exactly like oil drilling operations in Nigeria, a few dozen expat engineers leading everything and a local workforce of local “engineers” filling out technical roles. It’s doable, heck, Chinese firms in Africa import chinese workers to build even the most trivial low tech infrastructure like roads and ports, they would never let the natives there handle nuclear power plant construction.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Nuclear power is nothing like the oil industry. Ongoing oil production pays offshore contractor’s fees in hard currency via export income. With nuclear power, it is the electricity-consuming African country itself — without hard currency export income — that must pay the offshore contractors. Not at all the same from a financial viewpoint. South Africa still has enough economic momentum to keep two nuclear plants running — the only ones in sub Saharan Africa.

      Sure, Russians and Chinese can build the plants on some quid pro quo basis. But maintaining standards of operation over the years cannot be guaranteed. Political or economic turmoil could easily forestall payments for overseas services. The oversease contractor would not work without pay.

      Native Africans left on their own to maintain the operations and likely accidental shutdown of a conventional nuclear power plant? Not a pleasant thought. If you haven’t read this article:

      you should consider the implications.

      • DJGB says:

        If those nuclear power projects ever get built there will be some clause about the operation of the power plant that stipulates it’ll be handled by foreign engineers and payment is eventually settled in either a dollar amount expressed in local currency (to avoid using dollars) or in the form of raw materials (say x amount of oil barrels). Over the years that’s how simmilar projects have been handled, for instance:
        -Chinese companies did some infrastructure work in Venezuela (a country that is de facto african) that was paid back in the form of crude oil.
        -Chinese companies/govt are building an aeronautical/space base in Argentina (Patagonia) , which will be fully staffed by chinese nationals.
        – The USSR had military installations (Lourdes) that were off -limits to cubans for 40 years.
        So yeah, there’s precedent for that, the russians and chinese do know the local workforce is too incompetent and, as you correctly state, too stupid to handle those large scale projects so they plan accordingly.

        • alfin2101 says:

          Yes, the article agrees with you that Russia and China want to build these projects, even when they know that the population is too stupid to maintain the works themselves. Placing Argentina in the category of “too stupid” reveals a sub-par understanding of global IQ averages. The government of Argentina has always been stupid, not the people. Go over the average IQ by nation list from Wikipedia again for a better understanding.

          Nuclear power is different from every example you list. Clauses and contracts are irrelevant when a country like Venezuela, Cuba, or some sub Saharan African nation with an average population IQ of 75 goes bust. The nuclear power plant is full of enriched uranium but the engineers and technicians haven’t been paid, so they are pulled to work on other jobs where the company is actually paid for its work. What happens to all that enriched uranium and the other radioactive products?

Comments are closed.