Kenya hopes to grow its economy and boost manufacturing after building nuclear power plants, a Kenyan academic has told African Utility Week in Cape Town.
"We envisage we will become a middle-income industrial country by 2030. With nuclear coming on board, that will give us baseload which will sustain manufacturing,” said Karatina University lecturer Thuo Njoroge Daniel Butti.
Butti said nuclear power would help to keep up with Kenya’s energy demand and its plans for its development agenda, Vision 2030.
The Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board has said it expects to begin construction of the first of four nuclear power plants by 2024. The company is aiming to install 4 000 MW of nuclear capacity and is in the process of setting requirements for the programme.
Kenyans have been nervous about the government’s ambitious nuclear energy plans and its ability to finance them. However, Butti said Kenya did not want to experience the frequent blackouts that plagued countries like Nigeria.
“When the smallest entrepreneur has to have a standby generator, that’s bad policy. We do not want to go that way in East Africa. We’re looking at policy interventions which will see us having a decent livelihood.”
Kenya is diversifying its energy mix, which includes hydropower, coal and renewable energy. Its Lake Turkana wind power project, in north Kenya, is the largest private investment in the country’s history. It takes up 40 000 acres of land and is operated by 365 wind turbines providing 310 MW of electricity.
Butti suggested a comprehensive study should be developed for bio-energy.
“We could run into problems on bio-energy. The sector could potentially lead to deforestation and negatively affect food security.”
Kenya is one of a handful of African countries, including Nigeria, which have decided to include nuclear in their energy mix.
Meanwhile, World Nuclear Association (WNA) senior project manager Greg Kaser told delegates attending the African Utility Week that countries had legitimate concerns about long preparation and construction schedules for nuclear power plants.
He said it could take three years before the procurement process even begins. This was followed by a long construction process.
“Experience suggests the nuclear industry is capable of delivering a nuclear power plant within 110 months from application for a construction licence to grid connection, when the first revenue comes in. Localisation of manufacturing adds even more time to the schedule. We really should be looking at something much shorter.”
The average time it takes to build a nuclear power station is 72 months.
Kaser said Japan had managed to slice its construction time for nuclear power plants to four years.
The WNA’s goal is for 25% of global electricity to be supplied by nuclear in 2050. It argues that the cost per unit of electricity produced from wind or solar photovoltaic is 22% to 40% higher than that from nuclear generation.