Works on weather station at proposed nuclear plant stall

NuPEA chief executive officer Justus Wabuyabo.

Photo credit: File | Billy Ogada | Nation Media Group

Construction of a Sh20 million weather station at the proposed site of Kenya’s maiden nuclear power plant in Uyombo village, Kilifi county has stalled amid persistent protests by the local community.

Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (Nupea) chief executive officer, Justus Wabuyabo said the protests could affect the project timelines.

“We hoped to have finished construction by April but because of the protests, we extended the project and we hope to set it up by the end of this month,” he said.

“Contractor was already on site. The contract expired again because of the protests. We are consulting on this issue.”

The planned weather station is critical in collecting data on a host of weather factors such as exposure to tsunamis, ground instability, ability of inclined soil or rocks to withstand or undergo movement as Kenya seeks to build a nuclear power plant.

Samples are then taken for testing in the laboratory and are used to determine the suitability of a region to host a nuclear power plant.

Residents and human rights lobbies have since last year disrupted operations at the proposed site, forcing Nupea to change the completion timelines of the weather station from December to May this year.

Kilifi and Kwale have been earmarked as the two counties that are most likely to host Kenya’s maiden nuclear power plant.

Detailed site characterisation in the construction of nuclear power plants is key in avoiding disasters given the deadly nature of the materials used in the plants and the radioactive waste generated.

Kenya is seeking to join nations generating some of their electricity from nuclear power plants and has picked Uyombo to host the facility.

The country targets to start constructing the plant in 2027, with commissioning set for 2034. The facility is set to have a capacity of 1,000 (MW).

Besides the protests, residents of the village also presented a petition to Parliament in April this year in a bid to halt the plan.

South Africa is the only African country currently generating part of its electricity from nuclear power plants. Egypt is in the advanced stages of completing similar plants.

Geothermal is currently the biggest share of electricity in Kenya at 40.1 percent, followed by hydro at 24.08 percent and wind (14.62 percent).

There have also been concerns that Kenya does not need a nuclear power plant, given the abundance of geothermal power potential and whose exploitation is still low.

Kenya also imports hydropower from Ethiopia and Uganda to complement the local generation from geothermal, hydro, wind, and solar.

Kenya is ramping up generation from clean sources to significantly cut reliance on dirty thermal plants.

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