State agency to up safety standards in nuclear energy

By Esther Dianah | May 24, 2024
From left: Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA) Director General James Keter, KNRA board chairman Omondi Anyanga with Nuclear Power and Energy Agency CEO Justus Wabuyabo. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

The government says it will ensure high safety standards in the application of  nuclear energy and other crucial sectors of the economy. 

Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA) Board Chairman Omondi Anyanga said they will pursue partnerships in radiation and nuclear safety and learn from best global practices.

Mr Anyanga, who addressed the press in Nairobi, said safety remains paramount as the country eyes different energy options and nuclear applications.

“We’re involved in various activities geared towards protecting persons, society and the environment from the hazards associated with radiation and nuclear technology. These include training, building of capability for responding to radiological or nuclear emergencies,” he said.

He noted that the authority’s focus this year will be to strengthen its regulatory frameworks in line with its framework on the safe and secure handling of nuclear materials.

“KNRA will also emphasize the importance of a strong safety culture for nuclear applications,” he added.

Mr Anyanga spoke as Kenya increasingly looks to tap nuclear to broaden its enemy mix.

Current estimates show that Kenya’s total installed energy capacity comprises 863 megawatts (MW) of geothermal, 838 MW of hydro, 436 MW of wind, 2 MW of biomass, 173 MW of solar and 678 MW of thermal.

According to the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA), Kenya will have its first nuclear power plant up and running by 2035. A site for construction has been identified along the coastal belt, with feasibility studies ongoing. 

“As we have always said, there’s renewed interest in nuclear. We are working with experts from the US, Canada, South Korea and others. We recently launched a postgraduate course in nuclear and radiation safety which will go a long way in building our capacity to go nuclear,” he said.

The post-graduate course for Africa’s English-speaking countries is being overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority in conjunction with local universities and hospitals.

Anyanga noted KNRA will equally emphasize sustained public education and training of staff, where it will focus on building internal and external technical expertise and competencies.

“We are also in the process of establishing requirements for the design, construction, operation, and decommissioning of nuclear facilities. Protection of the environment and human safety will be key to us,” he told journalists.

According to KNRA, consultations were ongoing to have Kenya ascend to relevant treaties such as the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the Convention of Early Notification of Nuclear Accident, the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident and Radiological Emergency and the Joint Convention on the safety of spent fuel management and the safety of radioactive waste management of 1997.

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