01 October 2008 – The Kenyan government has once again invited investors interested in setting up nuclear power plants through joint ventures to the country.
However, experts are questioning whether Kenya has the technical and financial capacity to run a nuclear power plant. Items such as financing, timing, capacity, security, source and transportation of raw material (uranium), waste disposal and international politics on nuclear business are just some the factors that could hinder Kenya’s nuclear future.
The Kenyan government has clearly stated its intentions, however, and Prime Minister Raila Odinga called on investors to set up nuclear facilities during a recent trip to London. Energy minister, Kiraitu Murungi has also issued an invitation to investors and experts to attend the National Energy Conference in Nairobi in October.
"We have invited a South African nuclear expert to advise us on nuclear power generation," energy permanent secretary Patrick Nyoike said.
According to minister Murungi, the government is planning an initial 1000MW installation with an estimated cost of US$1 billion.
Kenya currently generates about 1 100MW and has a peak demand of 1 050MW. There has been pressure on authorities to diversify energy sources away from hydro and thermal power given change in climate and spiralling fuel prices.
Kenya Electricity Generating Company, KenGen, have questioned the viability of nuclear power, given Kenya’s energy demand.
"As it is right now, we cannot afford to go into such a project because it will not be economically viable since a nuclear power unit can only generate 600MW but the country needs at least 1,000MW," said Eddy Njoroge, KenGen managing director. "The cost is just too prohibitive for such a small project."
Says Dr Gichuru Gatari, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi’s Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology: "The initial investment is huge, but nuclear power generation is a viable option that can assure us of a stable, sustainable and clean power supply in the long-term if we want to develop economically." He cautions, however, "If what we need is a solution for our immediate power crisis, nuclear power is not an option."
In Africa, only South Africa operates a commercial programme while others like Ghana, Egypt and Morocco are said to be operating research projects.