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State to rev up nuclear energy drive as power demand rises

Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA) Director General James Keter, KNRA board chairman Omondi Anyanga with Nuclear Power and Energy Agency CEO Justus Wabuyabo.The government commits to fast-tracking the nuclear energy drive in Kenya. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The government says it is consulting widely and borrowing from best practices as it pursues the nuclear power programme.

This emerged as officials of two State agencies mandated with developing and regulating the nuclear sector met and declared the programme was well on course.

Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA) Director General James Keter and Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA) CEO Justus Wabuyabo pledged to deepen collaborations with other energy sector players to fast-track the programme.

The two agencies have been working closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria, which in December last year dispatched a team to Nairobi to assess the country’s preparedness.

The IAEA team returned a supportive verdict.  

Kenya plans to commission its first research reactor between 2030 and 2034. It also hopes to have its first nuclear power plant up and running by 2035.

A site for construction has been identified at the Coast, with feasibility studies ongoing.

It is believed nuclear will help address the country’s energy needs. Estimates show Kenya’s total installed energy capacity as comprising 863MW geothermal, 838MW hydro, 436MW wind, 2MW biomass, 173MW solar and 678MW of thermal.

The first nuclear power plant is expected to have a capacity of 1,000 MW.

KNRA board chairman Omondi Anyanga said to ensure the sector’s further development and to have a robust regulatory framework, which fall squarely within the two agencies’ mandates, there’s need to learn from success stories in other countries.

“We will not let the country down by bungling the programme,” Mr Keter said, adding:

“For the record, this is a government project. We’re committed to ensuring we get it right. There are issues around safety and environment but we have ensured that we get it right from the start.”

“From conception and construction all through its entire life, we will ensure it is as per international standard with full safety and security safeguards. We’re on top of it,” the KNRA Director General said.

Mr Wabuyabo called for more collaborations in the nuclear sector. “We intend to work more closely,” he said.

The talks, held at KNRA headquarters at Kasneb Towers, Nairobi, came at a time Kenya has made progress in the development of nuclear infrastructure towards, among others, a new research reactor programme.

Late last year, the IAEA team visited Kenya and reviewed preparations for the research reactor programme.

The project will be implemented by NuPEA supported by KNRA as the sector regulator.

“KNRA has to work very closely with NuPEA which is working towards addressing the infrastructure issues while we handle the regulatory framework. Our relationship is very cordial, towards implementation of the nuclear programme,” Mr Keter said.

Besides KNRA’s regulatory role of protecting lives and the environment from harmful effects of nuclear and radiation, the authority hosts the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) risk mitigation center at its national laboratory in Oloolua, Kajiado County.

According to IAEA, Kenya has made significant preparations. “Kenya has demonstrated a sustained and very professional approach to the development of its research reactor programme,” said Andrey Sitnikov, who led the IAEA review mission to Kenya between December 11 and 19 last year.

“We noted that before making the final decision, Kenya did a great job of developing and preparing laws and regulatory documents, actively involving interested stakeholders in the programme, and developing human resources of the future operator and the regulator.”

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