Kenya nuclear plan to cost billions in grid upgrades


A nuclear power plant. FILE PHOTO | AFP

Kenya will be required to upgrade the current national grid if it decides to proceed with plans to set up nuclear power plants to supplement the growing energy needs of the country.

A Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA) study for the Kenya Nuclear Power Programme has found the current network insufficient in backing a nuclear power plant.

The study carried out by the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency in collaboration with the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) and SGS consortium says the current electricity grid will require significant enhancement based on safety needs imposed on nuclear plants and the large size of such installations.

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“While Kenya has and is already expanding its electric grid system, it may require significant enhancement/upgrading to be suitable for the connection of a nuclear power plant. Interfacing nuclear power plants with existing grids require complex engineering,” reads the assessment report.

The electricity grid is expected to provide reliable and off-site power to nuclear power plants.

Should a nuclear power plant be too large for the grid, the assessment underlines specific challenges including off-peak electricity demand being too low to operate the nuclear plant at constant full power (baseload mode).

The required national grid is expected to provide enough reserve generating capacity in the grid to ensure grid stability during the nuclear plant’s planned outages for refuelling and maintenance.

“Any unexpected sudden disconnection of the nuclear power plant from an otherwise stable electric grid could trigger a severe imbalance between power generation and consumption, causing a sudden reduction in grid frequency and voltage. This could even cascade into the collapse of the grid if additional power sources are not connected to the grid in time,” adds the assessment.

The country’s current effective (grid-connected) electricity capacity stands at 2600 megawatts with supply being sourced primarily from hydro and geothermal sources.

The upgrade of the current national grid is expected to consist of additional spinning reserves, transmission lines and interconnect equipment.

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The grid should also have the capability of providing the plant with an external power supply which is independent of the plant output.

Kenya’s quest for the development of a nuclear power plant stems from the projected increase in electricity demand as the country angles to be a middle-income economy by 2030.

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