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Kenya not ready to generate nuclear energy

By Erick Kizito | October 4th 2016

Six years ago, Kenya announced it was going to build a nuclear power plant, which would generate 1,000MW (1GW) of electricity.

By 2030, the country hopes to produce 4GW from nuclear sources. This implies that nuclear will at that time account for 19 per cent of Kenya's total energy output, second to hydroelectric power.

I am highly pessimistic about Africa's largest geothermal energy producer's capacity to harness and safely utilize nuclear energy.

It is only KenGen that is showing seriousness in geothermal energy production and putting in place safety measures to curb accidents and damages. The overriding concern about any nuclear project is safety. There is the potential damage in terms of costs and casualties in the event of a nuclear accident.

Although advancements in nuclear science have led to improved reactor designs with the ability to shut down automatically during an emergency, scientists say the probability of a nuclear accident will never be zero.

In the event of a reactor meltdown or terrorist attack on the plant, which would release dangerous radioactive particles into the atmosphere, Kenya's disaster preparedness and response will ultimately make the difference between minimal and widespread damage.

The second concern is disposal of radioactive waste from the plant, which is hazardous to human health and the environment.

The third worry is that much of the knowledge and materials employed in a civilian nuclear programme can be used to develop nuclear weapons.

Kenya is a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which aims to promote safe use of nuclear energy by preventing the spread of nuclear weapons or their technology.

Kenya's installed electricity generation capacity is much smaller than the expected nuclear output.

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