News / Economy

Kenya Eyes Nuclear Power Development

Kenya is seeking to develop a viable nuclear energy program within the next 15 years to meet its growing energy demands. A government commission formed last year is conducting a feasibility study and the University of Nairobi is setting up programs to train people for the nuclear program. Critics say they're concerned about plant worker safety and the risk of environmental contamination.

Some 86 percent of Kenyans do not have access to electricity, relying on firewood and kerosene to meet their energy needs. Electricity is expensive, and the supply is limited.

Kenya produces around 1,400 megawatts of electricity, more than half of that from hydroelectric plants.

But massive deforestation and other factors have led to decreasing rainfalls and the drying up of rivers and lakes, making hydroelectric power less of an option.

Kenyan officials say nuclear power may be the answer.

David Otwoma is secretary of the Energy Ministry's Nuclear Electricity Development Project.

"If the cost of electricity can be reduced, then more of our people will be having access to electricity and with that other uses of electricity - like cooking, for example, our children being able to read," said Otwoma. "It will enhance the standard of living of our people if we have nuclear energy in the energy mix in the near future."

Otwoma said Kenya is striving to become a middle-income country by 2030, and that a steady, reliable power source is vital to industrializing the country.

He says a nuclear power facility would benefit the region, because  Kenya is a member of the East Africa Power Pool, a nine-member group working to make affordable, environmentally-friendly energy more accessible.

"Whichever country has a nuclear power plant, that electricity will not only be confined to that country," he said.

To that end, Otwoma's group is conducting a three-phase program to study environmental, economic and technical issues of nuclear power, with the aim of constructing one or more reactors within 15 years.

Likely locations for reactors are along Kenya's coast, inland rivers or lakes.

The University of Nairobi's Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology is working with the government on technical and personnel issues.

Scientist Gichuru Gatari tells VOA there needs to be more students in the institute, particularly those studying nuclear engineering. He says there is a big challenge with providing students hands-on experience.

"Look at it. We teach them nuclear science, nuclear reactors, accelerators," said Gatari. "There is no chance of seeing any one of them [in Kenya]."

Gatari says the institute needs money for equipment and sending students abroad to get the necessary experience.

"The scholarship fund is very limited," he said. "The research fund is very limited in the country. It is as if, when the project started, it has lost interest because there was no nuclear power, and people saw it as if we are going to develop a nuclear bomb. So the support was weak, even from donors."

A fear among many Kenyans is the safety of nuclear power. Images of damaged nuclear reactors in Japan and the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster loom large in the public eye.

Regional stability is also an issue, especially with attacks by the militant group al-Shabab in neighboring Somalia.

And the safe disposal of spent nuclear fuel is a continual, worldwide concern.

Kenyan officials say they are examining these and other issues in their pre-feasibility study, and they expect to produce their report within the next 18 months.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.