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

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7305
JPY
USD
101.53
GBP
USD
0.5830
CAD
USD
1.0656
INR
USD
60.075

Rates may not be current.