BY Charles Ogallo and Mwakwaya Raymond
Kenya’s government expects to have a fully operational and its first nuclear power plant by 2036 to boost its energy production and minimize cases of power blackouts that have plunged the country into darkness five times since January 2022.
Energy State Department principal secretary (PS) Alex Wachira says the government is committed in ensuring the country meets its target of developing the planned Ksh600 billion shillings nuclear energy production project.
According to PS the Energy and Petroleum Ministry through Nuclear Power and Energy Agency Kenya (NuPEA) has already picked suitable sites in Kilifi and Kwale counties for the construction of the mega project.
“Currently, we sensitising Kenyans, especially those living where NuPEA has identified sites suitable for the project to arrest misinformation about nuclear energy. We want to inform them this is the best energy for green growth and future economic development of Kenya and Africa in general,” he said during the official opening of Interregional Training Course on Nuclear Power Infrastructure Development at a Mombasa hotel.
Plans are already underway to see that the construction works at the picked sites in Kwale and Kilifi start in 2030 with a test run scheduled for 2034, says NuPEA board chairman Ezra Odhiambo who accompanied the PS for the two weeks training course.
The Mombasa training was attended by delegations from Algeria, Egypt, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana and Ethiopia in Africa, and Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Mongolia and Thailand in Asia, Turkey and Jordan in the Middle East as well as Poland representing Europe.
Other participants included nuclear power engineers and representatives from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and US government including Dr Mike Gott, US principal deputy secretary of office of Nuclear Energy whose pivotal role was acknowledged for the conception and realization of the pilot training.
In his opening remarks, the PS assured the delegates and Kenyans in general that the Kenya Kwanza led government was fully behind the project and looked forward to hosting such trainings annually as the country gears towards getting the first nuclear power plant.
Wachira said the training event stood as a testament to Kenya’s commitment to advancing development of nuclear science and technology for electricity generation for sustainable low carbon energy future.
“As the world is faced with challenges of climate change, population growth and energy security, it was imperative that Kenya explore diverse and sustainable energy development agenda,” he added.
However, the secretary asked Kenyans to support the project saying it would be successfully implemented, thus, providing numerous benefits to various sectors of Kenya’s economy.
“It’s for this reason that the nuclear power production is anchored in the country’s development blueprint – the Vision 2030 and also in the Kenya Kwanza government agenda: The Bottom Up Economic Transformation Agenda BETA,” Mr Wachira added.
He reaffirmed government’s commitment to adhere to the highest international safety standards while implementing the nuclear power program.
Nuclear Power and Energy Agency Kenya have already facilitated training of more than two dozen Kenyans in Nuclear power engineering in South Korea. Seven others have studied for diploma in Nuclear Law in Montpellier, France. All being part of a comprehensive capacity building programs for nuclear power development plan.
Nuclear energy has long being a beacon of promise in offering continuous, clean and reliable energy that plays key role in decarbonating the energy sector and supporting the attainment of sustainable development goals that eliminates poverty, zero hunger, and ensures clean water, affordable energy, economic growth and industry innovations.
Dr John Haddad, a nuclear power expert and IAEA representative in charge of Nuclear Infrastructure Development sector confirmed Kenya’s commitment to the program implementation saying more plans were underway to construct a research reactor at Konza Techno polis in Machakos County which would be used for training and production of medical radioisotopes for therapy of cancer and other diseases.
“We are happy that developing countries in Africa have embraced nuclear science and commenced the journey to developing Nuclear power programs in accordance with the set international safety standards while bearing in mind that all sources of power are a nuclear based and that nuclear energy is a good thing that needs to be embraced across the board,” he said.
Kenyan government projects the nuclear power plant will boost the current energy mix of 2,705 megawatts of installed power capacity, of which 86 per cent is drawn ftom green energy such as geothermal, wind and solar according to NuPEA director for strategy and planning Dr Winnie Ndubai who also doubles up as a nuclear power expert.
The agency is currently undertaking public sensitization and participation forums in Kwale and Kilifi to create awareness about the importance of nuclear energy as well as demystify fears among the local communities and Kenyans about nuclear power energy.
The energy and petroleum ministry’s 2021 energy and petroleum Statistics indicate that 92.3 of electricity in the country is generated from renewable energy sources while geothermal, hydro and wind power sources provide 43.6 percent, 36.5 percent and 11.5 percent of electricity respectively.
South Africa remains the only African country with commercial power plant, according to IAEA reports.
Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria are the other countries of the continent in Phase 2 of implementation which involves inviting bids and negotiating contracts for their respective first nuclear power plants.
The IAEA reports also show that 454 nuclear power plants with an instalation capacity of 399,978 megawatts are in operations globally while 55 others with an installation capacity of 55,903 megawatts are currently under construction globally.
Kenya government has since 2009 been implementing the project in partnership with other developing partners including IAEA and US government.
Kenya plans to follow the footsteps of South Korea by targeting 95 percent of the program and project’s construction vendors being sourced from without the country.