Kenya is poised to make a significant stride in its energy sector with plans to construct its first nuclear power plant by 2027. With an increasing demand for energy and a commitment to zero-carbon energy sources, Kenya aims to diversify its energy generation and reduce its reliance on traditional forms of power.
The Nuclear Power and Energy Agency has announced that it is in the advanced stages of planning to float international tenders for the construction of the nuclear power plant in either Kilifi or Kwale counties. This development comes after the International Atomic Energy Agency approved Kenya’s plan to set up the necessary infrastructure for the nuclear plant in 2021.
According to Justus Wabuyabo, the Acting CEO of NuPEA, the bidding stage is expected to take place between 2026 and 2027, with construction commencing in 2027. The construction process is estimated to take between six to ten years, indicating that the first nuclear power plant could be commissioned in 2034 or 2035.
As NuPEA narrows down the potential sites for the plant, Kilifi and Kwale have emerged as the frontrunners. These counties have met most of the criteria set by the IAEA, but before a final decision is made, a detailed scientific study, including seismic tests, must be conducted.
The nuclear power plant is projected to have a capacity of 1,000 Megawatts (MW). If successfully delivered, this new energy source will play a pivotal role in bolstering the country’s electricity supply and reducing reliance on fossil fuel-based thermal plants. The increased power generation will not only meet the growing demand for energy but also support economic growth and development in Kenya.
The decision to invest in nuclear power aligns with Kenya’s long-term vision of sustainable development and environmental conservation. By embracing nuclear energy, the country aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impact of climate change. Additionally, the nuclear power plant will contribute to Kenya’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and its target of achieving 100% clean energy by 2030.
Nuclear power offers several advantages over conventional energy sources. It provides a reliable and consistent power supply, reducing the risk of power outages. It is also a cost-effective option in the long run, as nuclear power plants have a longer lifespan compared to other forms of power generation. Furthermore, nuclear power does not produce harmful emissions, thus significantly reducing air pollution and its associated health risks.
However, it is essential to address concerns regarding nuclear safety and waste management. NuPEA recognizes the importance of implementing stringent safety measures to safeguard the public and the environment. The agency will collaborate with international partners and experts to ensure adherence to the highest safety standards and best practices in nuclear energy.
Kenya is actively pursuing the development of a nuclear power plant in response to the projected increase in electricity demand. The goal is for Kenya to become a middle-income economy by 2030.
Currently, geothermal energy is the largest contributor to Kenya’s electricity generation, accounting for 45.21 percent. This is followed by hydro (21.05 percent), wind (16.08 percent), and solar (3.92 percent).
However, in addition to the construction of a nuclear plant, Kenya will also need to upgrade its electricity transmission network in order to provide reliable and off-site power supply for the nuclear power plants.
A joint study conducted by NuPEA and SGS consortium has highlighted the need for significant enhancement of Kenya’s current electricity grid. This is necessary to meet safety requirements imposed on nuclear plants and accommodate their large size.
As it stands, South Africa is the only African country with a commercial nuclear plant, which contributes five percent of the country’s total electricity generation. In comparison, nuclear energy accounts for 47 percent of electricity generated in the United States.
To support its nuclear energy ambitions, Kenya has been investing in sending students abroad to developed economies with expertise in nuclear energy. This ensures that the country can develop its own skilled workforce and avoid complete dependence on imported labour.
Kenya’s journey towards establishing its first nuclear power plant is a significant step towards achieving energy security and sustainability. It highlights the country’s commitment to harnessing clean and reliable energy sources to power its growing economy.