Team named to drive nuclear power plans

Mr Ayacko (left) and Mr Murungi brief journalists on Kenya’s plans to launch nuclear power production on December 20, 2010. Photo/LIZ MUTHONI
Mr Ayacko (left) and Mr Murungi brief journalists on Kenya’s plans to launch nuclear power production on December 20, 2010. Photo/LIZ MUTHONI 

A team has been formed to spearhead Kenya’s drive for nuclear power production.

The 13-member committee, which will be chaired by former Energy minister Ochillo Ayacko, comprises scientists from the University of Nairobi, the Kenya National Academy of Sciences, the National Council for Science and Technology, the Institute for Nuclear Science and Technology, power utilities KenGen and the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC).

Other institutions include the Education ministry and the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS).

“The government has decided to embark on nuclear electricity generation because the country continues to face chronic power shortages and high consumer tariffs due to reliance on costly thermal-based generation and unreliable hydro power especially during periods of prolonged droughts caused by climate change factors beyond our control,” said Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi at the committee’s launch.

The ministry has set aside Sh300 million for the committee’s work this financial year to lobby key stake holders among them Kenyan workers, manufacturers and employers.

The country’s total installed power stands at 1,400MW against a peak demand of about 1,172MW.

Assess carefully

The government’s power master plan has recommended generation of up to 7,000MW of nuclear electricity, geothermal 5,000MW, and coal 4,000MW.

A new least cost power development plan prepared by public policy think tank KIPPRA to the year 2030 incorporates nuclear, geothermal and coal generation power plants, based on their respective merits.

The plan has projected the country’s power demand to surpass 15,000MW by 2030.

In Africa, only South Africa runs a nuclear station while Egypt is on the verge of production.

“The decision to embark on this programme has been informed by the desire to reduce dependence on imported energy, the need to increase diversity of our energy sources and to reduce the cost of electricity in the long term,” said Mr Murungi.

Joel Kiilu, the chief executive at Ketraco and an engineer, said nuclear power is one of the cheapest sources of power although it releases harmful emissions that should be properly managed.

“As we develop other sources, it is also important to look at nuclear,” added Mr Kiilu.

Other sector experts said climate friendly energy sources should be prioritised, away from reliance on drought-prone hydro sources.

George Wachira, an industry expert, said the nuclear option has to be assessed carefully in comparison to geothermal, which already has a huge potential in the country.

“This is a good idea for later years. It is a bit too early for nuclear energy as we need to concentrate most of our available attention on wind and geothermal which are more within reach in the near and medium term,” said Mr Wachira.