Residents split over plan to set up Sh500b nuclear power plant

Uyombo residents protest against the planned construction of a nuclear plant in Kilifi County. [Robert Menza, Standard]

The plan to build a Sh500 billion nuclear power plant at Uyombo in Kilifi County has drawn mixed reactions from residents, with some welcoming the project while others insisting it would pose danger to them and the environment.

The Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) is expected to generate 1,000 megawatts by 2034 to cater for Kenya’s soaring energy needs and spur industrial development. 

Speaking during a sensitisation forum organised by the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA) in Kilifi town at the weekend, a section of locals expressed support for nuclear energy as an integral part of the country’s source of clean energy. 

Uyombo Madeteni B village elder Katsaka Kirao urged residents to consider the future and the next generation. 

Clean energy

“Energy consumption in the country is growing. We must diversify production and ensure stable generation of clean energy,” said Kirao.

He faulted people who have been misleading residents about the project.

Another resident, Bahati Karisa Mwenyeji, said he hoped to get employment once the project is implemented.

“At the beginning, a group of people came to our village and told us to reject the project but they didn’t give a valid reason. All they were saying was we will experience an incident similar to the Fukushima nuclear power accident in Japan,” Mwenyeji said.

He said after getting clear information, he realised the merits of the project outweigh its negative side.

Mwenyeji argued the population of Uyombo would increase due to the project and give life to the sleepy village. He said fears about the environment will be mitigated by modern technology. 

Residents told the government to continue with the sensitisation forums and counter those inciting locals to reject the project.

But opponents cited the danger of accidents and radiation, prospect of escalating project costs and lack of specialised technicians in the country. 

“On one hand, I support its construction because it will create jobs for many people in this village and spur development. On the other hand, I am concerned about ecology,” said James Kea. 

Earlier, NuPEA Director for Publicity and Advocacy Basett Buyukah said before the station is built, a feasibility study and environmental impact assessment will be done.

He assured that the opinions of all interested parties will be collected and put into the final report that will inform the decision to put up the plant. 

Mr Buyukah reassured locals that the nuclear energy plan will adhere to the laws and regulations and conform to the standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency and international best practices. 

However, human rights groups said the safety and security measures are merely “window dressing and hot air” as the dangers of the plant remain the same. 

Deputy Director and Head of the Natural Resources Management Department at the National Land Commission Bernard Opaa told residents that the commission will investigate the legal land owners before compensation. 

He assured the residents that the commission would prepare a detailed and transparent investigation before approving the payment and compensation for the people whose land will be taken for projects.