The government has said plans are underway to set up first nuclear power plant by 2027, with construction expected to start within seven years.
Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board (Kneb) chief officer Collins Juma on Tuesday said a prefeasibility study and siting work have already been done.
He said they expect to have the actual site(s) within the next two years.
“The journey to have a nuclear plant started in 2009 and already we have done prefeasibility study and we have been doing the siting work for the last five years but we are hopeful that by 2024 construction works should begin, which will make us the second country in Africa after South Africa to set up a nuclear power plant,” said Mr Juma.
He was speaking during a meeting involving Kneb, the Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek), engineering students in the country and the public at Laico Regency in Nairobi on Tuesday.
Mr Juma, however, said the programme is capital-intensive, with building a single nuclear power plant capable of producing 1,000MW costing between Sh500 billion and Sh600 billion.
He added that a model for constructing and running the power plant had not been arrived at.
He, however, stated that the board has signed a memorandum of understanding with four countries to help Kenya in capacity building as the process is capital intensive and requires highly skilled personnel.
“The programme will create jobs locally both directly and indirectly with human resource planning showing that over 5,000 workers, majority of whom will be drawn from the local labour pool, will be involved in design, siting, bidding and the construction of the nuclear power plant,” said the Kneb boss.
He noted that as the world gradually shifts to cleaner fuels for electricity, Kenya is among countries intending to pursue a nuclear power programme.
He said there are 438 nuclear power reactors in operation worldwide with a total installed capacity of 374,301MW and a further 71 under construction.
“We need more power at affordable prices. Nuclear power is environmentally friendly, affordable, reliable and sustainable,” he said.
The Kneb boss said nuclear energy has been identified as a source to fill the deficit Kenya is projected to have by 2030.
He said Kenya will require an estimated 16,000 megawatts of electricity by 2030 by then, yet the country is only able to generate 2,300 megawatts from various other energy sources
“Under the 5,000 megawatts plus initiative, coal and gas will be tapped alongside geothermal and wind to raise the country’s electricity to 7,000MW.
"There will still be a deficit even if all domestic energy resources were fully exploited," he said.
“Based on this, nuclear energy has been identified as a stable, efficient and reliable source of electricity to spur industrial development and stimulate economic growth,” he said.
Safety and security
For his part, Joseph Maina, Radiation Protection Board acting chief officer, allayed fears concerning the safety, security and disposal of waste from nuclear energy.
Mr Maina said Kenya has a nuclear safeguard where nuclear material must be accounted for atom by atom to make sure no diversion for unintended purposes.
“Kenya has made great strides in enhancing legal framework and approach through necessary regulatory structures to ensure nuclear systems, security and safeguards including the management of radioactive wastes and spent fuel is adhered to,” said Mr Maina.
Cofek secretary-general Stephen Mutoro hailed the programme but urged the board to involve consumers while the process is ongoing to make them fully understand the plan.
“The subject has been misunderstood because of lack of enough information reaching the public but with more stakeholder engagement this will change,” said Mr Mutoro.