nuclear energy
Koeberg nuclear power plant. Source: Bjorn Rudner

“The Energy Act 2019 now enhances the participation of nuclear power development,” said Kenya's permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy, Joseph Njoroge, as he underscored the focus on pursuing reliable and sustainable, competitively priced clean energy.

Njoroge said this at the African Nuclear Business Platform in Nairobi convened to provide insight on the nuclear energy market.

Among the participants at the forum, hosted by the Nuclear Power Energy Agency, were Kenya’s nuclear power stakeholders, vendors and representatives from African countries with the vision of embarking in the establishment of their first nuclear power plant.

The event took place at the Movenpick Hotel in Nairobi, with the resolve to emphasize the importance of international collaboration in the region in nuclear energy.

Currently, hydroelectricity does not sustain industrialisation alone, and a lot of effort has been put to fast track geothermal energy, which makes half of Kenya’s energy mix.

Solar and wind stand at approximately 12%. Kenya also views nuclear energy as the most viable option

Collins Juma, the Chief Executive Officer for Kenya’s Nuclear and Power Energy Agency, indicated that a regulatory body will be in place with the establishment of the Nuclear Power Programme.

Nuclear technologies now safer than before

On the sidelines of the conference, nuclear energy vendors demonstrated what was being done take the fear out of nuclear.

There is a crop of new generation nuclear reactors designs that are much safer than previous models. There are also strict processes and regulations in place for some of the technology designs to guarantee safety.

The new generation of nuclear technology, notably small to medium-sized, modular reactors (SMR) is ‘affordable’ and smaller in size, thus reducing demands on land use. NuScale, a US-based company, currently has mature designs for SMR.

Prof. Abdulrazak, the IAEA Director for Africa’s Division at the Department for Technical Cooperation indicated that nuclear energy is able to mitigate climate change and has begun to gain popularity among developing countries, which also see it as a possible route to meet their industrialisation plans.

At present, nuclear energy produces 10% of the world’s electricity and 5.7% of the total primary energy used worldwide. Meanwhile, the global energy supply and energy use per capita are increasing. The contribution of nuclear for electricity generation varies from region to region.

African interest in developing nuclear power

Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda have expressed interest in setting up nuclear power infrastructure.

Prof. Abdularazak stated that more needs to be done among African countries in terms of nuclear science.

Currently, the IAEA is working with countries to help them embark on establishing their first nuclear power programme.

A number of African countries including Kenya have made commendable steps in their regulatory process, advancing in accordance with the three phases laid out in the IAEA framework milestones in the development of a national infrastructure for nuclear power.

Collins Juma, who also doubles as the vice president of the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC), urged African newcomers to create partnerships and learn from one another.

“There is a need for synergy. The continent needs to come together and learn from other countries that are pursuing nuclear energy. We need to have more African countries join IFNEC and push the Africa Nuclear Agenda,” he stressed.

IFNEC is the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation that provides a forum for cooperation among participating states to explore mutually beneficial approaches to ensure the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Taking decarbonisation of the energy sector, and the power sector in particular, as a long-term imperative, nuclear energy qualifies rationally as the most viable option.

This message was amplified by most African countries participating in the conference.

By Albert Mbaka, an Energy Researcher at the Centre for International and Security Affairs. Edited by ESI Africa.