Nuclear plant best option for Kenya power woes

kenya_vp_kalonzo_musyokaKenya seems set for a significant expansion in the use of nuclear power to provide energy, feed the hungry and heal the sick. This follows re-election of a Kenyan to join the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), after an absence of 26 years.

Kenya has also given a formal notification to the agency of its interest to introduce the technology.

Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka (pictured) said the country is adjusting its priorities to focus more on nuclear power and is seeking IAEAs help to develop a national science and technology infrastructure.

The country has submitted a draft Country Programme Framework (CPF) for the period 2011 to 2016 to the Agency for comments.

Musyoka said the programme has addressed priorities set out in the Vision 2030 economic blue print including development, research, production and use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.

Construction of facility

Kenya, he disclosed, has also allocated Sh525 million ($7 million) to augment construction of a Central Radioactive Waste Processing facility, which includes an interim storage facility for disused conventional radiation sources and other radioactive materials.

Renewed Government participation in the search of the new form of energy is outlined in a paper presented by Musyoka, who spoke when he addressed the recently concluded 53rd Session of International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria. “We continue to have serious power shortages and because of climate change, every indication is that we must move away from dependency on hydro-electric power if we are to become self-sufficient,” he said.

He said Kenya is seeking the Agencys assistance to develop nuclear power plants to generate an extra 100 MW in the immediate future.

A University of Nairobi lecturer, Michael Mangala, however, said Kenya would need to enact requisite laws to support development of the nuclear technologys infrastructure and provide for their long-term sustainability.

“Lack of appropriate legal system has made it hard for the Agency to give Kenya technical support to harness nuclear energy,” he told The Standard last week.

He estimated that harnessing nuclear energy for electricity generation would require an initial capital investment of about Sh80 billion.

The Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology don said though Kenya might have other sources of energy, to industrialise, it must add nuclear energy to its electricity generation mix.

Radiation devices

“As Kenyans are struggling to resolve a crisis, affordable energy means should be pursued. The Government should exploit the nuclear energy option to bridge the huge energy deficit,” he said.

Mangala said though Kenya has been in partnership with the IAEA longer than its neighbours, it is lagging behind in developing the new energy source. Tanzania inaugurated its Atomic Energy Commission early this month. The Commission is responsible for all matters relating to the safe and peaceful use of atomic energy and nuclear technology, including radioactive materials and radiation devices.

While visiting Kenya in July, the outgoing IAEA Director General Mohammed El Baradei said the agency is ready to support the country to exploit nuclear power.

Baradei, who spoke when he met President Kibaki at his Harambee House office in July, said IAEA is willing to provide personnel to train Kenyans on the appropriate use of nuclear technology.

At least five countries, including France, Sweden and Belgium, rely on nuclear power for more than 50 per cent of their total electrical energy supplies.

Another ten countries including Finland, Japan, Spain Republic of Korea and Switzerland rely on nuclear plants to provide 30 per cent or more of their total supplies.

Developing countries that include Argentine, Brazil, China, India, Mexico and Pakistan have operational nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power

Speaking during the September 14 to 18 Vienna meeting, El Baradei said following appeals for support from developing countries, the Agency has adjusted its priorities to focus more on the nuclear power programmes of incomers.

“We are doing everything we can to make our assistance effective,” he said.

He said one of the projects dear to him is the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy, an effort to bring IAEAs radiation medicine activities into national and regional cancer control programmes.

El Baradei noted that 23 of the 53 countries in Africa, for example, have no operating radiotherapy services, prevention, screening, early diagnosis and no palliative care programmes despite the incidence of cancer increasing dramatically in developing countries.

He also said the Agencys technical co-operation activities have made a significant difference in the lives of many in developing countries.

For instance, he added, induced crop mutations using nuclear techniques have in many countries provided better nutrition, greater food security and improved economic prospects for farmers, while isotope data are helping to ensure reliable supplies of groundwater.

Musyoka lauded IAEA for its role in establishing comprehensive cancer controls in six demonstration sites, one of which he noted is in Africa, and that it plans to establish one more site in the continent.

He said Kenya, which is witnessing increased cases of cancer, would greatly appreciate to be earmarked by IAEA as one of the sites.

The Standard

Post published in: Economy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *