Kenya set to build US$5bn nuclear power plant to boost its power industry

KENYA – Kenya’s nuclear agency has submitted impact studies for a US$5 billion power plant and said it’s on course to build and start operating the facility in about seven years. By 2030, the country is slated to have installed 4 GW of nuclear energy, which will enable it generate 19 percent of its energy consumption tally.

If such is achieved, the East African country will have nuclear power as its second largest source of energy, coming after the geothermal cleantech.

35 percent of Kenya’s electricity generation comes from hydropower, while the rest comes from wind, heavy oil plants and geothermal. But the reliability on hydro is questionable due to the reality that periods of drought have affected the output of associated plants.

More so, climate change has a huge impact on the patterns of rainfall and temperature, giving birth to periods of both floods and extreme lack of water in most parts. Kenya’s geographics makes it vulnerable to such fluctuations, which also affects livelihoods and exacerbates hunger, diseases and loss of lives.

Nevertheless, the country appears to be on course to realize its nuclear power ambitions. The government has plans to expand the sector’s capacity four times by the turn of 2035, according to a report by the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency.

With funding from China, it plans to develop a coal-fired plant on its coast, but the plans have been delayed by a court action from a team of environmental activists.

The US$5 billion project’s plans have been documented and put out for public scrutiny. If the country’s environmental watchdog, the National Environment Management Authority, approves it, the project can kick off.

A site in Tana River County, near the Kenyan coast was preferred after studies across three regions, according to the report. The plant will be developed with a concessionaire under a build, operate and transfer model.

Presently, no less than 400 nuclear power reactors operate in 30 different countries across the globe, testifying of the growth of the sector. South Africa is the only country in Africa that has a commercial nuclear power plant, with two reactors accounting for 5 percent of the country’s electricity production.

Kenya’s nuclear power foresight is followed by doubts, nonetheless. From lack of properly trained manpower to the overall expense of such projects, the suitability of the sites where the plants will base, and nuclear disaster management, there seems to be a lot of valid reservations about what the country can actually pull off in this regard.

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