Access to energy is regarded as the basic requirement for economic growth. And yet 1.5 billion people in the world today don’t have access to the basic form of energy, electricity. The energy demand in Kenya has risen steadily in recent years.  As at August 2018, Kenya has a peak demand of 1832MW and an installed electricity generation capacity of 2,308 MW comprising of hydro (826MW), thermal (766MW), geothermal (625MW), wind (25.5MW), cogeneration (28MW) and other sources (37.5MW) [2]. Provision of clean, affordable and reliable power supply taking into consideration environmental sustainability is a requirement for the realization of Kenya’s Vision 2030 Development Blueprint which aims to transform Kenya into a middle income country by the year 2030.

In this regard, the Least Cost Power Development Plan (‘LCPDP’) and the Energy Bill 2017 factored nuclear power as a component in Kenya’s energy mix in the future.  The LCPDP 2011 – 2031 envisions that Kenya’s electricity peak demand will increase to 15,026 MW by 2031 where nuclear power will be added in the electricity generation mix supplying 4000 MW.

In December 2010, The Government of Kenya (GoK) established The Nuclear Electricity Project Committee (‘NEPC’), comprising of 13 members vide number Gazette No. 14188 of November 2010. Its core mandate is to fast track development of nuclear electricity in order to enhance the production of affordable and reliable electricity generation. The membership was drawn from nuclear stakeholder institutions. NEPC has since been transformed into the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board (KNEB) vide gazette No. 131, supplement 156 of 23rd November, 2012.

In implementing the Kenya’s nuclear power programme, KNEB is following the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Milestone Approach which is a guide document that breaks down the process of introducing the nuclear power programme into three phases and at the end of each phase there is a Milestone to be achieved. The Milestone guide document also has enumerated 19 infrastructure issues that an embarking country like Kenya needs to develop as shown in figure 1.

Various activities have been carried out by KNEB including; Pre-feasibility study, Phase I Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission development of strategic plan, performed technical studies such as Reactor Technology Assessment (RTA), siting studies, grid study, development of a comprehensive nuclear regulatory bill, undertake analysis of the national industrial survey and national participation plan, human resource development planning, stakeholder engagement and public education, development of nuclear related policies and strategies among others.

 KENYAS’ JUSTIFICATION FOR development OF nuclear POWER PROGRAMME 

In view of the current energy situation, there are a number of challenges and weaknesses that affect energy supply in Kenya. These challenges include and not limited to: low access to modern energy leading to high pressure on biomass resources, high cost of energy, increase in demand of electricity is increasing, inability to connect all customers who are willing to pay supply, unsustainable and high cost of rural electrification through grid extension due to the scattered nature of settlements; frequent power outages and high system losses, among others. This, therefore, calls for concerted efforts by the government and all stakeholders to address these challenges to ensure an adequate and cost effective supply of energy for economic growth and improvement of quality of life of the citizens, while taking cognizance of the need to protect and conserve the environment.

The high volatility in energy prices, the rapid increase in energy use by developing countries, cut backs in supply due to disputes between countries and problems with climate change caused by emissions of greenhouse gases are real issues we face currently. While at the same time concern is also fueled by threats of terrorism, geopolitical rivalries and political instability in some of the exporting nations.

The rationale for inclusion of nuclear power in Kenya’s energy mix include: projected exhaustion of conventional base-load power sources (Hydro, Geothermal, etc.); diversification and redundancy of the energy portfolio-energy security; Energy reliability (nuclear is a base-load power supplier hence robust electric grid compared to intermittent power sources such as renewables); and global warming/Environment – nuclear has relatively low greenhouse gas (GHG) emission rates.

Nuclear energy is the most reliable and clean source of energy for any emerging economy under current scenario, Kenya being one of them.   Although there are other safer and cleaner options like wind and solar but the battery technology is still at a stage which makes the later options less practical on a large scale. Nuclear reactors can provide safe baseload power on a large scale while taking the dependence away from oil and gas. It also does not have the intermittency problem that plagues most of the frontline renewable energy technologies we know of. In addition, nuclear energy utilizes less land. A site area comparison of the various forms of energy reveals that for a 1,000MW capacity plant, nuclear energy requires 1,200 acres, solar 43,500 acres and wind 70,600 acres [6], taking in mind the sensitivity of land issues in the country.

Besides the technological aspect, nuclear energy will also offer Kenya the independence and the energy security that is essential for the economic and political stability of the country. The recent protest in Nigeria is an unfortunate example of how volatility of fuel price could lead to a major political breakdown and subsequently affect the economic growth of the country. Nuclear power could remove that volatility.

In terms of the environmental sustainability, nuclear energy is viewed as the least polluter and producer of the greenhouse gases, from the different source of GHG.

Energy security would also allow Kenya to be more sovereign in its decision making. Developing countries like Bangladesh quiet often has to make the very unpopular decision to raise fuel price (by cutting down subsidy) at the request of International Monetary Fund (IMF) who holds the key to most forms of aid provided to developing countries [8]. Removing dependence on fossil fuel would remove Bangladesh from such obligations set by IMF.

NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY FOR PEACEFUL APPLICATION AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.

In the 1940s uranium was used widely for military purposes (which till this date is still etched in the mind of a large number population the destructive power of nuclear energy), however in the 1950s under the stewardship of US President Eisenhower, the visionary and Chief Architect of “Atoms for Peace”, the use of nuclear power was transformed for peaceful civilian applications.

Presently, uranium is the principle fuel to power nuclear reactors; in nuclear power reactors for generating electricity, in nuclear research reactors for research and development applications and production of radioisotopes used in agriculture, industry and medial sectors and in ships and submarines for propulsion.

The World Nuclear Association (WNA) has reported that as of September 2010, 440 commercial nuclear power reactors operating in 30 countries generate 14% of global electricity.

In 2017, that there are 440 commercial nuclear power reactors operable in 31 countries, generating  11% of world electricity   and 61 nuclear power reactors under construction in 15 countries. And in 2018 441 nuclear power reactors operating in 30 countries produced 11 % of global electricity. Additionally, 56 countries operate a total of about 250 research reactors, with a further 180 nuclear   reactors powering some 140 ships and submarines.

The IAEA reported that as of 19 August 2018, there are 453 nuclear power reactors operable in 30 countries. Nuclear Electricity generation is highest in North America followed by West and Central Europe with Asia recording the highest change.

Nuclear technology development is not just a driving force to economic growth. It is also a means to economic development. The range of impacts to be considered as Kenya embarks on a nuclear power programme can be split into three broad categories: economic, environmental and health and social.

Primary Impact

(a) Economic

  • Direct Cost savings
  • Fossil fuel price capping
  • Energy supply security (Avoided lost output)
  • Avoided net fuel imports
  • Enhanced technology exports
  • Electricity price stability
  • Intellectual capital gains 

(b) Environmental/Health Increased radiation levels

  • Nuclear accident consequences
  • Avoided greenhouse gas emissions
  • Avoided acid gas emissions
  • Avoided carcinogen emissions
  • Avoided fuel extraction and transport accidents

(c) Social

  • Changed employment levels
  • Changed risk perceptions (weapons accidents health gene pool)
  • Changed social consensus
  • Changed cultural impact
  • Changed ecological impacts

Economic Consequences

  • Enhanced productivity
  • Improved competitivity
  • Improved terms of trade
  • Currency appreciation and enhanced economic growth
  • Changed levels of morbidity and mortality, therefore economic output
  • Changed physical damage and environmental losses affecting resource utilisation
  • Direct effects on resources
  • Changed institutional costs
  • Changed economic efficiency

What are the quantifiable effects?

Secondary investment effects

The act of Kenya investing in a new nuclear facility will stimulate economic activity beyond what is reflected in the conventional resource cost analysis, resulting in total increases in the national, regional and international income that can exceed the direct investment costs by a significant margin, this is evident from the case study of Korea nuclear industry. The magnitude of this multiplier effect depends on the nature of the technology involved and the extent of its reliance on domestic or imported goods.

Employment

The nuclear industry is a significant though not a major employer in OECD countries, employing a few per cent of the workers of the industrial sector (4% in France). One characteristic of the industry is its relatively high proportion of skilled and graduate staff relative to most other major energy and manufacturing industries.

The direct employment provided by the industry in construction operations and fuel services is lower than that involved in equivalent electricity supply using coal and possibly renewable sources. This argument has been used to pursue energy options other than nuclear power in countries with indigenous coal supplies, but it ignores the effects on employment that may result from changes in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In many countries where phase-out of nuclear power has been considered, studies indicate large economic consequences, of the order of one per cent drop in GDP with a concomitant drop in employment. This is due mainly to the lower cost of electricity generated by nuclear power. The fact of having a lower electricity price increases competitivity and stimulates growth increasing the GDP, which more than compensates for any other employment effects. A rise in the electricity price may also result in losses of jobs for several tens of thousands of persons. In one country the choice of nuclear over coal is credited for generating in the order of one hundred thousand jobs.

In Kenya the number of staff required is much larger than for the other organizations, typically in the range of 500–1000 for a single or twin unit plant.

Affordability of Nuclear Power

From the international case studies, the production cost for various energy sources is shown in figure 2. In United States of America, the cost of producing nuclear electricity is the lowest at 2.3 us cents per Kwh in the period 1995 – 2013.

The volatility of the uranium cost is least compared to other fuels for electricity generation as show in figure 3.

Balance of payments

The effect of policy choices on balance of payments is frequently used as an argument to favor one option over another, on the basis that anything that reduces imports or increases exports is beneficial to the economy.

The nuclear industry can affect trade balances through the import or export of technology and fuels in the long run as the Korean nuclear industry evolved. Its potential for technology export has been advanced as an argument in many countries in support of its development, and its ability to substitute low-cost uranium imports for high cost oil, coal or gas has also been argued in favor of its adoption .

Price stability

The introduction of an additional large-scale energy source, like nuclear power, into the world’s energy supply mix helps to provide price stability. As Kenya embarks on a nuclear power programme of almost 4000MW by 2031 this will play a major role in stabilizing the electricity and energy prices.

The availability and use of the additional source reduces demand pressures on the fuels it displaces and leads to their future prices being lower than they would otherwise have been. This benefits all fuel users, even though they themselves may not have adopted the new energy source itself. Thus the industrial countries’ adoption of nuclear power will have helped to restrain the world market price of oil and coal to the benefit of the developing countries amongst others.

One study has endeavored to quantify the effect on fossil fuel prices of nuclear power’s contribution to world energy supplies. The analysis has examined the cost implications of suspending nuclear power production globally, immediately or over a 10-year period. In both cases, oil and coal prices are projected to rise to nearly double their 1990 levels by 2005, resulting in a decline, in the case of Japan, of GDP by 1% in real terms. The effect of such fuel price changes on other countries’ economies would differ depending on their dependence on imported fuels.

Regional impacts

The regional impacts of investment in new generation capacity are similar to those for national economies. The local impacts are larger in relative terms on employment, environmental and infrastructural effects, and secondary for production. However, the benefits (though not the detriments) are likely to draw in labour and products from outside the region so that the local gains may be diluted.

The expansion of the grid to the East African region; East African Power pool (EAPP) will greatly benefit the members state if the nuclear power programme will be realized

 

What are the other impacts with economic consequences?

Security of energy supply

One advantage sometimes claimed for indigenous fuels, for fuel- free energy systems or for technologies requiring low volumes of fuel (like nuclear power), is that they enhance the security of energy supplies. They can do this mainly by reducing dependence on external fuel sources whose supply could be disrupted by political or other actions. On the other hand, the supply of nuclear fuel is unlikely to be a problem, since reactors are normally refuelled only once in 24-36 months, and fuel stockpiles are easy to establish and maintain. A day’s supply of uranium fuel implies a small truck compared with several train-loads of coal.

Resource depletion

For both coal and uranium, the world resource base is so large compared with rates of consumption that this is not an important factor. Known uranium resources alone could provide all the world’s energy requirements for centuries if fuel breeder technology is used.

Spin-off

All advanced technologies call for new materials, techniques and skills that can find application in other sectors of the economy with consequent economic benefit. Nuclear power has been no exception, and it has contributed to substantial technical progress in many fields. This use of products or skills developed as part of one technical programme in other spheres of economic activity is commonly called spin-off.

Socio-cultural effects

Nuclear power has provided a focus for opposition to advanced technology, to centralization of decision-making and to other features of modern industrial society. As such, it has contributed to a significant loss of social consensus and a degree of social conflict in many OECD countries. This has imposed extra costs on society as a whole, though without nuclear power another focus for this opposition would probably have been found. Since the issue of radioactive waste is emotional there will be opposition from green movement from various Kenyan stake holders but this will be addressed in-depth so that  no any undue burden is passed on to the next generation.

Environment and health

The environmental and health implications of electricity generation and use have become a major focus of attention.

Three important points can be made at the outset. First, the impacts associated with electricity sources are not confined to the generation stage, but extend backward into fuel extraction and processing, and construction of the plant and forward to the reprocessing and final disposal of wastes. Second the benefits and costs associated with individual options have to be measured against those of the alternative options. Third, these alternative options may include non-electricity options such as conservation strategies or direct fuel combustion that have their own environmental and health impacts.

Nuclear power

In the nuclear power cycle, small quantities of radiation are released to the environment during reactor operation and at fuel production and spent fuel management plants [18]. These releases are carefully monitored and controlled to levels that correspond on average to less than 0.1 per cent of the public’s exposure to radiation from naturally occurring radioactivity arising from radioactive minerals in the ground, from atmospheric radon and from cosmic rays.

In general the radiological impacts on the public associated with nuclear power are comparable or lower in this regard to those associated with other alternative power generation and equivalent energy conservation measures requiring the use of materials to achieve their effect (e.g. loft insulation, cavity wall insulation).

Concern about nuclear power among the public focuses on risk of a major accident resulting in the release of a significant fraction of the fission products into the environment, and with consequent loss of life and ecological and economic damage.

In practice Kenya’s government is committed to give international guarantees through international conventions and ensuring conformance to the set regulations of the national, regional and international standards.

Nuclear TECHNOLOGY for environmental sustainability 

The emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and their implications to climate change have sparked global interest in understanding the relative contribution of the electrical generation industry. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world emits approximately 27 Gigatonnes of CO2e from multiple sources with electrical production emitting 10 Gigatonnes, or approximately 37% of global emissions.  In addition, electricity demand is expected to increase by 43% over the next 20 years.

In November 2015, world leaders came together to agree on firm climate targets: holding the increase in global average temperature from pre-industrial levels to well below 2°C, the threshold at which most experts believe the worst impacts from climate change can still be avoided, and pursue efforts to limit the rise to 1.5°C

Nuclear power saves almost 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions each year and has avoided more than 60 billion tonnes of emissions over the 1970- 2015 period.

There are many different electrical generation methods, each having advantages and disadvantages with respect to operational cost, environmental impact, and other factors. In relation to GHG emissions, each generation method produces GHGs in varying quantities through construction, operation (including fuel supply activities), and decommissioning. Some generation methods such as coal fired power plants release the majority of GHGs during operation. Others, such as wind power and nuclear power, release the majority of emissions during construction and decommissioning. Accounting for emissions from all phases of the project (construction, operation, and decommissioning). In arriving at the GHG emission levels form the different source of energy a lifecycle approach and normalization is done. This will ensure fair comparison of the different generation methods on a per gigawatt-hour basis. The lower the value, the less GHG emissions are emitted.

From the studies nuclear power, along with hydropower and wind energy, produces one of the lowest GHG emissions per unit of electricity generated on a life cycle basis.

In figure 2 a clear comparison is made from the different sources of electricity with the lifecycle of GHG emitted.

Further to the findings, the following observations can be made:

Greenhouse gas emissions of nuclear power plants are among the lowest of any electricity generation method and on a lifecycle basis are comparable to wind, hydro-electricity and biomass.

Lifecycle emissions of natural gas generation are 15 times greater than nuclear.

Lifecycle emissions of coal generation are 30 times greater than nuclear.

There is strong agreement in the published studies on life cycle GHG intensities for each generation method. However, the data demonstrates the sensitivity of lifecycle analysis to assumptions for each electricity generation source.

The range of results is influenced by the primary assumptions made in the lifecycle analysis. For instance, assuming either gaseous diffusion or gas centrifuge enrichment has a bearing on the life cycle results for nuclear.

Although nuclear power has made a significant contribution to avoiding carbon emissions for the past 45 years, the challenge ahead is to keep pace with the demand for low-carbon energy to meet the 2˚C goal. Rapid deployment is constrained by long-term planning and construction times as well as industrial production limitations, especially for nuclear power plant components. In terms of unit construction requirements, the challenge is two-fold: replacing retiring units while also ramping up capacity in new markets. Replacing ageing capacity without causing a break or loss in output is a pressing issue for countries with the oldest nuclear power programmes.

Public support plays a key role in any nuclear power programme. The public must be confident that existing plants will continue to operate safely, and that new plants will be held to the highest of safety standards. Importantly, a robust safety culture at nuclear power plants must be maintained through continuous capacity building and open communication with stakeholders. To protect people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation, the IAEA helps countries strengthen nuclear safety, emergency preparedness and radiation protection.

In advancing innovation to foster the deployment of more affordable and more sustainable low-carbon technologies. For nuclear power, advancements can improve performance and safety and can help extend the operation life of reactors. Currently, nuclear power mainly supplies electricity, but innovation opens up additional areas to contribute to emission reduction, including non-electric applications such as desalination, process heat and energy storage. The Paris Agreement provides a platform for enhanced technological innovation and supports cooperation as well as knowledge transfer.

 

There are many opportunities for innovation to advance nuclear energy in addressing climate change, including new reactor designs such as small modular reactors [23] and advanced fuel cycles. Some designs for innovative nuclear plants exist and many others are in development. However, more investment in research, development and demonstration is needed.

Conclusion

Kenya has recognized the potential benefits of adopting nuclear power and has taken the policy decision to include it as a technology option in its national energy mix.  This decision has been taken against a background of exponentially increasing energy demand arising from accelerated socio-economic growth on the one hand, and concomitant dwindling supplies of energy on the other.  The combined effect of this mismatch in demand versus supply has resulted in high costs of energy domestically and industrially.

This paper has shown the role of nuclear energy will play in ensuring environmental sustainability while providing clean, affordable and reliable electricity.

 

The engineering fraternity plays a crucial role in ensuring that Kenya possess the requisite human resource to successfully and safely develop, construct, operate and decommission the first nuclear power plant.

This paper has affirmed that nuclear energy can indeed make development sustainable from an energy perspective.  This sustainability can be achieved through the establishment of robust nuclear power programme infrastructure, which possess the hybrid character of ‘functional effectiveness’ and ‘regulatory efficiency’, coupled with suitable performance indicators.  Active government involvement and co-ordination between national and county levels of government, relevant institutions, and with all stakeholders is mandatory if an integrated sustainable development approach towards energy is to be achieved.

Future supply of energy in Kenya with the inclusion of nuclear, offers a diverse mix of sources that will ensure environmental sustainability, energy security and avert the risks of over reliance on a single or few power options.

1 COMMENT

  1. The word clean as used in this article needs some qualification. Based on Three mile accident in the United States, the Chernobyl disaster in Russia and the Fukushima disaster in Japan, nuclear power is not clean. Countries like Germany and Japan are considering shutting down all their nuclear reactors as at the moment no technology exists to decommission a rogue reactor. Considering our social economic situation, our response to disasters and general understand of radiation in our country caution should be exercised in our advocacy for nuclear power.

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