nuclear operator
Interviews  
6 February 2017

Exclusive interview: Eng Nduma Joseph Ruwah

Electrical Engineer, Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board (KNEB) and speaker at the upcoming African Utility Week in May.

1) Let’s start with some background on the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board (KNEB) and the various projects that you are involved in the energy and utility sectors?
The government of Kenya identified Nuclear power as one of the future sources of energy for the country. In this regard, the government established KNEB (Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board) to implement Kenya's nuclear power programme as the NEPIO (Nuclear Energy Program Implementing Organization).

KNEB is involved in national energy planning within the energy sector, human resource development strategy for nuclear power, stakeholder sensitization, research reactor feasibility analysis and power reactor technology assessment.

2) How close in your view is Kenya to developing its first nuclear power plant? What are the challenges?
We are in the early stages of developing our nuclear power programme so we still have quite a distance to cover. We are trying to develop competent manpower. Sustaining this kind of skilled manpower is the challenge due to the lack of research reactors and power reactors in Kenya which would guarantee further training of relevant professionals.

We are also finalizing the legal and regulatory framework that aims, among other things, to establish the nuclear energy regulator, operator and research institute.

3) How would this change Kenya’s energy mix? How important would this be for the region’s energy supply?
Kenya has a huge potential for geothermal energy. Geothermal plants usually run as base load plants and so do nuclear power plants. With the introduction of nuclear power to the grid, we might have to do away with fossil powered plants IF the single largest power plant then, will constitute 10% of the installed power capacity. Nuclear power plants have very high availability and capacity factors. This will guarantee stable electricity and thanks to the regional interconnections with Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia (in progress) we will have sufficient regional demand for electricity.

4) What surprises you about the energy industry?
The possibilities and the potential for innovation. It literally depicts the saying: never say never. We now have battery power packs with capacities of up to 20 MW (scalable) that can literally replace gas peaking plants and stabilize grids. They can be used for peak shaving, load shifting and emergency backup.

5) What is your vision for this sector?
I long to see a smart electric grid where every every house and all load centers also generate solar power which they can feed back to the grid using an intelligent switching system. This will increase energy efficiency and will make renewables like solar more competitive.

6) You are taking part in the nuclear conference at African Utility Week this year – what will be the theme of your address and your message?
How to make nuclear energy programmes work in developing countries.

7) What are you most looking forward to at African Utility Week?
Interaction with peers in the energy sector from all over the continent. I know I have a lot to learn from everyone.

8) Anything you would like to add?
Africa was poorly connected by the telephone network before the advent of mobile phones, we almost literally skipped the landline technology. I hope we will replicate that scenario in energy and skip the fossil powered generation technology. This can be done by invention and innovation and being ready to take the risk. The future is laden with opportunities and it's waiting for the bold to take them.

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