Calls for safe use of nuclear energy as Africa marks treaty

Nuclear Power Plant Cooling Towers with stream pouring out into the purple blue dusk night sky. [Getty Images]

Kenya is among African counties that have pledged to ensure the continent remains a nuclear-weapons free zone even as the continent seeks safe exploitation of nuclear technology.

During celebrations to mark the 14th anniversary of the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty – the Pelindaba Treaty – in Nairobi on Saturday, the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (Afcone) urged countries to take stock of the achievements and challenges they have faced in implementing the Pelindaba Treaty.

The Treaty prohibits the research, development, manufacture, stockpiling, acquisition, testing, possession, control or stationing of nuclear weapons, as well as the dumping of radioactive wastes.

Afcone Executive Secretary Enobot Agboraw said the Pelindaba Treaty fosters peace and security in Africa.

“The treaty is not just about prevention of proliferation of nuclear weapons, it also promotes the peaceful application of nuclear science and technology to bring development in industry, medicine, water resources and the production of electricity,” he told The Standard.

On his part, Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA) Director General James Chumba said: “In implementation of the Pelindaba Treaty, the Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA) is mandated to come up with legislation, regulations and procedures to ensure the safe and secure use of nuclear energy and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.”

He said the authority works with local and international security agencies to “ensure there is no illicit trafficking of nuclear materials”.

Kenya’s quest to produce nuclear power in the next 12 years has been met with resistance by Uyombo residents in Kilifi County where the first plant is to be set up. 

The residents claimed there has been a lack of information on the plant and its impact on the environment from the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA). 

NuPEA engineer, Eric Ohaga, last week the project was designed to produce 1,000 megawatts of clean energy by 2036. The project is estimated to cost more than Sh300 billion. 

On Saturday, Chumba said nuclear technology has many benefits including tackling food insecurity, fighting poverty, dealing with climate change and meeting energy needs.