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Russian technology may speed up linking of nuclear power to Kenya’s national grid


A nuclear plant. FILE PHOTO | AFP

Kenya is likely to benefit from technology that allows for faster link-up of nuclear power to the national electricity grid under an agreement with Russia’s state-owned nuclear firm Rosatom.

The technology, known as Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) can be deployed on a need-to-basis where the existing grid infrastructure is not yet robust or lacks the capacity to meet local demand.

SMRs have been identified as one of the most effective energy solutions for sub-Saharan Africa, according to the ‘Atoms for Africa’ report published by The Centre of Global Development.

SMRs offer small reactor sizes and simplified nuclear design technologies that are easier to finance, construct and operate.

Kenya is one of the few sub-Saharan countries that have shown interest in the deployment of nuclear energy through a signed partnership with Rosatom.

Most African countries’ grid capacities are barely a few thousand megawatts, and the typical energy sector convention is that a single power plant’s capacity should not exceed 10 per cent of a country’s total grid capacity.

Significant challenges

“Despite the potential of and interest in nuclear power in sub-Saharan Africa, there remain significant challenges to adopting the technology on the continent.

Current nuclear power plants (NPPs) on the market, at a power rating of 1000 megawatts (MW) or more, exceed the capacity that many African countries can support,” says the report co- authored by Jessica Lovering, Director of Energy at the Breakthrough Institute, and three Fellows - Abigail Sah, Omaro Maseli, and Aishwarya Saxena.
In 2016, Kenya committed to building a nuclear infrastructure capable of producing 1000 MW by 2027 and expanding to 4000 MW by 2030.

Lakes Turkana, Victoria and the Indian Ocean are some of the sites that have been considered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the establishment of an NPP.

Russia enjoys a first class globally respected wide range of expertise in the field of SMR energy.

Reference point

As early as 2019, Rosatom plans to launch Akademic Lomonosov, its floating NPP, which will become the world’s unique reference project for nuclear power plants of this type.

On top of that, Rosatom is actively developing its onshore Russian-design SMR NPP.

Apart from its modular composition, one of the main advantages of the Russian-design SMR NPP is its ability to be used as a desalination and heating plant.