Kenya will continue with its push towards harnessing nuclear energy as an alternative to geothermal and hydropower to ensure future security and growth, the Ministry of Energy has said.
Energy Principal Secretary Joseph Njoroge on Monday reaffirmed the country would set up a series of nuclear power plants, each with a capacity to generate 1,000 MW from 2023 to meet Kenya’s needs beyond 2030 when it looks to industrialise.
“If we compare the population and size of Kenya with developed nations, our country needs between 45,000 MW and 50,000 MW,” Mr Njoroge told the press in Nairobi.
He said the geothermal energy potential to be exploited in future cannot go above 20,000 megawatts (MW), thus the need for alternative sources such as nuclear.
“We have no option but to embrace nuclear early enough to avoid starting the process long after we have exhausted geothermal sources,” he added.
Mr Njoroge said that Kenya had nearly exploited hydro power sources which are often prone to weather changes, adding that while solar and wind sources are clean and easy to tap, they are unreliable.
Kenya’s installed capacity stands at 2,298 MW, out of which 593 MW is geothermal with 280 MW having been injected to the grid last year from the Olkaria steam belt in Naivasha.
Studies show that the area has a potential of 10,000 MW without including Nakuru’s Menengai basin where geothermal works are ongoing.
Hydropower’s capacity is 827 MW while thermal plants, whose electricity cost is double geothermal’s and six times hydro electric’s, is 692 MW — often on standby and only switched on during peak demand.
Mr Njoroge was speaking on the sidelines of a stakeholder’s forum involving 11 visiting international atomic energy experts who will in the next one week review Kenya’s preparedness to tap nuclear electricity.
The team, led by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials, will then prepare an assessment report to serve as a guideline for Kenya before the country opens the bidding window for the construction of the region’s first nuke plant.
The country has already conducted pre-feasibility studies on its suitability for nuclear plants and is in process of identifying sites.
IAEA said that Kenya’s diversification of its energy mix was critical in supporting industrial growth.
“Nuclear power is a reliable base load option,” said Anne Starz of IAEA while downplaying security concerns over atomic technology.
South Africa, the only country on the continent to have nuke plants, has sought the agency’s nod to set up more plants.
Other African nations that are seeking the technology include Nigeria, Morocco and Egypt.
Kenyan students on government scholarships are currently undertaking nuclear studies in South Korea and the US to strengthen the country’s capacity.
The Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board (Kneb) executive chairman Ochilo Ayacko said the country will import nuclear fuels to be used for electricity generation as opposed to using locally sourced radioactive minerals.
“The contractor of the plant will be in charge of supplying nuclear fuels — it is cheaper that way than to set up a plant locally to process uranium ore,” said Mr Ayacko.
Kenya is endowed with uranium, radium and argon reserves in Murima Hills in Kwale and Pokot, according to Ministry of Energy.
IAEA usually reviews the three phases of atomic energy development process namely: the country’s decision making (the stage where Kenya is), capacity development for bidding and contract awarding and finally the construction phase.
Kenya has a 15-year strategic plan, the average time it takes to implement atomic energy technology, which includes the safe decommissioning of plants whose lifespan is over.
The IAEA experts will review and advise Kenya on nuclear safety, human resource development, radioactive waste management, procurement and financing. Others are legislation, regulatory framework and infrastructure development.