Ghana is set to become the second country in Africa to introduce nuclear energy after South Africa. This follows the International Atomic Energy Agency approval of Ghana’s application after decades of negotiation. The project could have a large impact on Ghana’s power shortfall and raises questions about what safety protocols are in place.
Ghana’s nuclear ambitions date back to the 1960s but stalled after the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president. Now, with erratic power supply from hydro and thermal energy sources, the country is focused on a more reliable means of power generation.
Robert Sogbadji, in charge of nuclear and alternative energy at Ghana’s Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, has high hopes for the project.
“Now we have rejuvenated the whole idea to go nuclear because it was envisaged that it would be so cheap that we would not even have to price electricity. We would write in our history books that once we used to ration power in this country. It will [also] spring new industries in steel technology, welding and various robotic roles. All these are spin offs from nuclear power,” said Sogbadji.
Ghana will begin to build its first nuclear power plant in the next 5 years. When it is fully operational in 2025, it will generate 1,000 megawatts of power - about 50% of Ghana’s current total installed capacity for electricity generation. Ghana eventually hopes to become a power exporter to its West African neighbors.
However, recent nuclear disasters - such as the 2011 Fukushima incident, in which 3 nuclear reactors were damaged in an earthquake-triggered tsunami - have raised concerns about safety in general and more specifically in Africa.
Sogbadji said Ghana is investing in safety protocols in line with international standards and will establish an independent regulatory body.
“We are putting a bill before parliament for the nuclear regulatory authority is to be set up. They will be licensing every activity and every procedure on the road map for us to build the nuclear power plant,” said Sogbadji.
Benjamin Nyarko, director general of Ghana’s Atomic Energy Commission, said Ghana’s stability, economic growth and experience with nuclear research make it well positioned to be the next country in Africa to introduce nuclear to its energy grid safely.
“Our research has gone on for 20 years now and we don’t have any problem. So as for safety, we are sure. And the new nuclear plants that are being manufactured now are being incorporated with very high safety magnets that will not have any serious effect if an accident occurs,” said Nyarko.
Nyarko added that Ghana's nuclear power plant would be monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure compliance with international safety standards.