The Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA) hosted a Site & External Events Design (SEED) Review Mission for the Kenya Nuclear Research Reactor from 22nd – 26th January 2024 in Nairobi. Research reactors are nuclear facilities that serve primarily as a neutron source for various applications in education and training, research, health, agriculture, and industry. At the request of NuPEA, the review mission was conducted by a team of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and International experts. The Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA) is coordinating the implementation of the Kenya Nuclear Research Reactor (KNRR) project at Konza Technopolis.
So why Konza Technopolis? Before delving into the objectives and the overview of the SEED review mission, It is important to appreciate the site selection process for the Kenya nuclear research reactor. NuPEA established a multidisciplinary Site Selection Team with representatives from various stakeholders, including National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), The University of Nairobi (UoN), National Disaster Operation Center (NDOC), Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), and Ministry of Energy (MoE). This team was tasked with conducting site selection activities for a research reactor in Kenya. They formulated Criteria for the Siting of Nuclear Installations in Kenya, drawing upon the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safety Standards, specifically IAEA Safety Standards for the selection of sites for nuclear installations (IAEA SSG35). The Criteria document served as a comprehensive guide for the site selection process, incorporating considerations such as external natural and human-induced hazards, national environmental zoning, population and infrastructure dynamics, as well as safety, security, and safeguards measures. The utilization of these criteria ensured a thorough and systematic approach to the site selection activities, aligning with international safety standards and addressing various pertinent factors in the decision-making process. Based on the report Konza was the most suitable site.
WHY THE SEED REVIEW MISSION?
The Site & External Event Design (SEED) missions, designed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), are meant to assist member states in site safety related aspects and protection of nuclear installations against external events in different stages. In this case, the primary objective of the SEED review mission was to review the Criteria for Siting of Nuclear Installations in Kenya (NuPEA), Report on Site Selection for Research Reactor and Report on Geotechnical Studies undertaken at Konza Technopolis Development Authority (KoTDA) among other relevant documents in efforts to support Kenya in addressing any gaps. In order to contextualize the theoretical reports, the team visited the proposed site at Konza Technopolis Development Authority (KoTDA).
During the review mission, the team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and International experts focused on the graded approach for the research reactor, flooding hazards, and geo-hazards analysis (seismic and volcanic hazards). They were able to share more insights and expert opinions. In addition to the review, they carried out capacity building sessions to enhance the capacity of the Kenyan participants.
In its report, the IAEA team undertaking the SEED review mission shared their findings and recommendations which will be adopted to improve the siting process. In particular, the team recommended collecting more data, conducting field investigations, and undertaking preliminary research on fault displacement and flooding hazards.
“Site selection is crucial in the realization of the research reactor project. It is therefore key to pay close attention and do research on external hazards,”said the IAEA team lead, Mr. Kazuyuki Nagasawa, during his closing remarks. “The IAEA is committed to support Kenya through follow up missions and capacity building.”
At the closing ceremony, Dr. Winnie Ndubai, NuPEA’s Director Strategy and Planning, thanked the participants. She stated that the Board of Directors adopted the feasibility study report for the research reactor project which will be key in the development of the country. She emphasized on collaborative spirit and employed the regulator, Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority, to work together with NuPEA to successfully execute the project.