By Faith Kosgei
On 4th December 2017, Kenya Nuclear Electricity (KNEB) hosted a public dialogue with Kenya electricity consumers on nuclear electricity development in Kenya in collaboration with Consumer Federation of Kenya (COFEK) at Laico Regency Hotel in Nairobi.
The forum attracted various stakeholders who were curious and excited to know more about Kenya’s nuclear power programme, some of the notable participants included the Secretary General of COFEK Mr. Stephen Mutoro, Acting Chief Executive Officer Radiation Protection Board Mr. Joseph Maina, KNEB Board Members and staff, Media, students, civil society groups, women groups and youths.
Kenya intends to build a 1000MW nuclear power plant aimed at increasing power capacity that is currently at 2,300MW to bridge the deficit gap of the projected 16, 000MW; the country will need by 2030 with construction expected to start within seven years.
"We have already done a prefeasibility study and siting work is underway for the last five years but we are hopeful that by 2024 construction works should begin, which will make us the second country in Africa after South Africa to set up a nuclear power plant. We expect to have actual sites by 2020," said KNEB Chief Executive Officer - Eng. Collins Juma
Eng. Collins Juma further, stated that the programme is capital-intensive, with building a single nuclear power plant capable of producing 1,000MW costing between Ksh 500 - 600 billion (USD 5-6 billion). He added that a model for constructing and running the power plant had not been arrived at yet, however, he said that the Board has signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with four countries to help Kenya in capacity building as the process is as said capital intensive and requires highly skilled personnel.
The first nuclear power plant in Kenya will create about 5,000 new jobs throughout its construction and it will empower us technologically and place us on the same pedestal as the rest of the advancing economies. It is not only in Kenya that nuclear electricity is being developed in Africa. Recently, Nigeria signed an agreement with Russia’s nuclear firm Rosatom to build two first nuclear power plants in the country. South Africa has operational nuclear plants while Egypt is on advanced stages of setting up a nuclear power plant in the country. Ghana, Tunisia, Uganda and Tanzania are all also planning to set up first nuclear power plants.
‘Kenya will require an estimated 16,000 megawatts of electricity by 2030, yet the country is only able to generate 2,300 megawatts from various other energy sources. "Under the 5,000MW+ programme, coal and gas will be tapped alongside geothermal and wind to raise the country's electricity to 7,000MW but there will still be a deficit even if all domestic energy resources were fully exploited," Eng. Juma said. Based on this, nuclear energy has been identified as a stable, efficient and reliable source of electricity to spur industrial development and stimulate economic growth.
During the forum nuclear safety was explained as a set of institutional, organizational and technical elements and conditions established to provide a sound foundation for ensuring a sustainable and high level of safety to the public and environment. Participants were assured that Kenya fully recognizes and is committed to establishing a robust national nuclear safety infrastructure and commitment to the Global Nuclear Safety Regime as we work towards introducing nuclear electricity generation by 2027.
Joseph Maina, Radiation Protection Board acting CEO, put to rest fears concerning the safety, security and disposal of waste from nuclear energy by pointing out that Kenya has a nuclear safeguard where nuclear material must be accounted for atom by atom to make sure no diversion for unintended purposes.
"Kenya has made great strides in enhancing the legal framework and approach through necessary regulatory structures to ensure nuclear systems, security and safeguards including the management of radioactive wastes and spent fuel is adhered to," said Mr Maina.
While lauding the project as a major step forward for Kenya, COFEK Secretary General Mr. Stephen Mutoro urged the Board to involve consumers while the process is ongoing to make them fully understand the plan. He further stated that with devolution picking pace, some Counties might reject the project and this poses a new challenge to the nuclear Board. However, he noted that the subject has been misunderstood because of lack of enough information to the public but with more stakeholder engagements, this will change.
During the forum, participants were also informed of other applications and benefits of nuclear technology some of which are being used in the country such as in medical diagnostics, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology, mitigating against climate change, research and industrial use.
KNEB has a robust public information, awareness and education program that seeks to demystify myths, misconception and half truths about nuclear electricity generation as the country is working towards commissioning its first nuclear power plant in 2027.