If a country is considering the introduction of nuclear power, then it is essential that it develops a comprehensive strategy to assess energy needs and understand the potential role, appropriateness, viability, and commitments associated with nuclear energy in the context of plans for national and socioeconomic development.
Phase 1- Pre-feasibility study
KNEB has carried out a pre-feasibility study for Kenya’s nuclear power programme. The study aimed at analyzing conditions and infrastructure necessary to support a nuclear power programme as well as preparations that need to be made to enable Kenya successfully introduce nuclear power. It examined 19 infrastructure issues that require careful consideration as prescribed by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)- Milestone approach splits the activities necessary to prepare a nuclear power infrastructure into three progressive phases of development upon which progress is measured and a decision made in readiness to move to the next phase. The infrastructure issues are National Position, Nuclear Safety Management, Funding and Financing, Legislative Framework, Safeguards, Regulatory Framework, Radiation Protection, Electrical Grid, Human Resources Development, Stakeholder Involvement, Site and Supporting Facilities, Environmental Protection, Emergency Planning, Security and Physical Protection, Nuclear Fuel Cycle, Radioactive Waste, Industrial Involvement and Procurement. At the end of Pre-Feasibility Study(Phase 1), KNEB will submit the Pre-Feasibility Report to the Government of Kenya (GoK) to enable the Government make a knowledgeable commitment to a nuclear power program and also approve(or disapprove) the decision to venture into Phase II and conduct Feasibility Study(FS) project for the Nuclear Power Plants.
KNEB engaged a number of Government ministries and agencies in carrying out the study. They include Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC), Kenya Industrial Research & Development Institute (KIRDI), Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Limited (KETRACO), Kenya Electricity Generating Company(KenGen), Energy Regulatory Commission(ERC), Ministry of Devolution and Planning, Ministry of Education &Science, Technology , Radiation Protection Board, Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, National Environment Management Authority, National Intelligence Service and Central Organization of Trade Unions.
Primary infrastructure issues
Nuclear Safety refers to the set of institutional, organizational and technical elements and conditions established to provide a sound foundation for ensuring a sustainable and high level of safety to the public and the environment. The need for a robust national nuclear safety infrastructure and commitment to the Global Nuclear Safety Regime has been recognized in Kenya as it prepares to start its nuclear power programme.
Current application of conventional radiation sources in agriculture, medicine, industry as well as research in Kenya observes a fundamental safety objective to protect people and the environment from harmful effects of ionizing radiation.
Funding and Financing
Funding refers to the items that are the fiscal responsibility of a government in establishing a nuclear power programme, for example ensuring the necessary resources for regulation and labor development. Financing on the other hand refers to the item that are fiscal responsibility of the owner /operator that results in the investment of funds into the power programme with an aim of profits accruing from the nuclear power sales.
The government will provide funding for preparatory activities that will establish primary conditions to support the nuclear power programme. Overnight capital cost for the country’s nuclear power plant are initially estimated at 4, 866$/kW (US$ 2.91 billion) for a 600 MW plant and 4,055$/kW (US$ 4.05 billion) for a 1,000 MW plant. Overnight cost refers to the present value cost that would have to be paid up front for construction projects. In other words, the cost if no interest is accrued during construction or escalation due to increased material, labour costs, inflation etc. Further studies will be conducted to come up with revised cost estimates that reflect impact of factors such as siting, localization rate and fluctuations in foreign exchange rates.
The nuclear power project will also rely on Government financing for its implementation. The power project’s sponsor will take an equity stake in it and debt financing (mainly from export credit agencies) will contribute the balance of the capital required. Supplier countries could also possibly provide financing for the power plant.
The development of a robust legislative framework-which includes a nuclear energy policy, is mandatory for the nuclear electricity generation programme in Kenya to successfully liftoff. The country has demonstrated its commitment to international obligations on peaceful nuclear energy use by ratifying several international legal instruments in nuclear security and safeguards. Furthermore, the country is preparing to ratify international treaties in relation to nuclear safety and liability for nuclear damage. The government has also laid out plans to develop a nuclear policy and enact legislation establishing institutions that are necessary for the nuclear power programme.
Human Resources Development
Nuclear power technology is a knowledge intensive industry. It is therefore imperative that a country embarking on this journey should have a solid plan to develop and maintain a human resource base possessing the right knowledge and skills necessary to oversee the implementation of nuclear related projects. The Government, through KNEB, has rolled out yearly training programmes targeting young Kenyans since 2011. 15 students have been sponsored annually to study for a Masters Degree in Nuclear Science at Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology at the University of Nairobi. In addition, 16 Kenyan students have enrolled for postgraduate programmes in Nuclear Power Plant Engineering at the KEPCO International Nuclear Graduate School in the Republic of Korea over the past three years. The partnership agreement between the Government of Kenya and South Korea, witnessed the first intake of six students in 2012, four in 2013 and a further six in 2014, respectively. The first batch of six students in the two-year course graduated in February 2014.
The Government, in collaboration with the IAEA , sent 29 Kenyans to participate in a one-month fellowship at the Nuclear Power Institute of Texas A and M University in the USA. This was under a technical Cooperation Project Titled: ‘Building Capacity for the Implementation of a Nuclear Power Programme by Developing Human Resources, Institutional Capacity and the Legal and Regulatory Framework.’ The 29 Kenyans were drawn from various Government bodies expected to play different roles in planning and eventual introduction of nuclear power in the country. In 2013, 20 participants took part in the fellowship. Several Memoranda of Understanding with various Governments and institutions are being drafted and a number have been signed in order to support the country’s capacity building efforts.
Site and Supporting Facilities
The location of a nuclear power plant takes into consideration all important factors required for the plant’s safe operation throughout and beyond its lifetime. They include; environmental factors, water seismology, geology safety and security. A regional survey for the sites results in potential which are analyzed against these factors. The sites are then ranked using a mathematical approach by assigning normalized numerical values to each of the factors and summing up the total for each site. The site with the highest value is the best candidate site. Preliminary studies have demonstrated that Kenya has a number of potential sites for nuclear power plants.
Emergency planning and preparedness
Emergency planning and preparedness refer to the measures needed to reduce nuclear damage at the nuclear facility, in its boundaries, in other places where nuclear energy is used. National Disaster Operation Centre (NDOC) is the national coordinating authority for all emergencies in the country. Emergency planning is guided by a disaster management policy which aims at increasing and sustaining resilience of vulnerable communities to hazards through diversification of their livelihoods and coping mechanisms.
Response to conventional accidents such as landslides and floods by independent organizations (Red Cross, AMREF, St John Ambulance) has been swift, except for fire accidents in which the response has been unsatisfactory leading to loss of property and life. Measures and mechanisms to deal with response to radiological and nuclear accidents by medical personnel and first responders will be put in place to support the nuclear power programme.
Radioactive waste may be composed of materials varying in origin, chemical composition, and physical state. However, what distinguishes radioactive waste is that it contains components that are unstable due to radioactive decay. Managing radioactive waste requires different approaches to ensure the protection of both humans and the environment from the radiation.
Three options which are internationally acceptable are employed in Kenya for managing radioactive waste: concentrate and contain (concentrate and isolate the wastes in an appropriate environment); dilute and disperse(dilute to regulatory-acceptable levels and then discharge to the environment); and delay to decay (allow the radioactive constituents to decay to an acceptable or background level. The Materials Testing and Research Department at the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure is the lead organization in management and storage of radioactive waste. The Radiation Protection Board is spearheading construction of a Central Radioactive Waste Processing Facility to safely manage increasing stockpiles of radiation sources in the country. Some radioactive waste is also stored at waste generators in various forms in on-site interim storage facilities.
In order to support the nuclear power programme, the Government will address shortcomings in current legislation and regulations as well as establish an independent regulatory body to enforce regulation and ensure safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste. A radioactive waste repository will also be constructed in the country.