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Nuked out: Kenya’s nuclear power agency to be disbanded in cost cutting plan

BUSINESS
By Macharia Kamau | October 23rd 2021

A nuclear power plant in a bulb.

The State agency charged with developing Kenya’s roadmap to nuclear energy is set to be disbanded.

A task force formed to look into modalities of bringing down the cost of power has recommended the dissolution of the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (Nupea), saying it serves no major purpose at the moment.

The Presidential Task force on the Review of Power Purchase Agreements said in a report that the country is years away from setting up its first nuclear power plant, and does not yet need a standalone parastatal to steer the process.

The task force, chaired by ICDC chair John Ngumi, cited the Kenya Least Cost Power Development Plan (LCPDP) in which the first nuclear power plant is expected to start generating electricity in 2037.

It said the functions that Nupea is currently undertaking could be easily handled by a department within the Ministry of Energy.

“According to the 2020-40 LCPDP, it is unlikely that the country will go into nuclear power production in the foreseeable future,” said the report that was presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta late September and made public on Thursday.

“A separate entity to promote and implement a nuclear programme in Kenya is, therefore, not necessary at this point, and this high level non-generation role could be played by the Energy ministry.”

The taskforce said it had established that the scope of Nupea’s mandate involves aspects not related to nuclear energy, such as research and capacity building in other utilities.

“The envisaged role, which is not nuclear related, can be performed efficiently by the respective entities.

“The cost implication of running Nupea as a distinct entity cannot be justified,” the report said.

The verdict may mean that the agency has over the years gobbled up billions of shillings that it did not need. Nupea was allocated Sh518.98 million in the financial year to June 2019, nearly half of which (Sh256.48 million) was spent on employee costs.

Kenya started considering nuclear electricity in 2008.

The Kibaki government had initially proposed a first plant in 2020, an overly ambitious timeline considering other countries have spent decades to develop their plants.

This target was, however, moved to 2027 and later 2037, with factors such as slow demand for power coming into play.

The taskforce recommended the amendment of Section 54 of the Energy Act, which set up Nupea.

It said the roles that the nuclear agency has been playing would be “vested” to a department within the Energy ministry to handle the general policy development of nuclear power.

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