IS KENYA READY FOR NUCLEAR POWER GENERATION

Last week marked a quarter of a century since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Ukraine and almost two months since Japan’s Fukushima incident.Over the labor day weekend the Ministry of energy together with the Kenya Power and Lighting Company advertised the positions for senior management in the proposed nuclear energy project the country is now looking into.

Kenya wants to join the list of African countries already looking into the possibility of tapping into nuclear power.The only country in Africa that as had an active nuclear power plant is South Africa which has been operating since 1984.

The power plant is expected to be built by 2017 according to ,the project has already received approval from the UN nuclear safety body International Atomic Energy Agency.Seeing that all this was done last year,i am sure there are concern that have already surfaced after the recent happenings in the industry ,chief among them safety standards for human population and the environment in the vicinities of these plants.

There have already been protest in Japan over the use of nuclear energy after this past disaster and Kenya with a very poor record of disaster response needs to think about this before this ambitious project is launched.There have also been concerns raised over the safety of the proximity of nuclear plants to human population so it would be interesting to see where the government plans to locate the proposed nuclear plant.

Another question we need to be asking ourselves is what will we be doing with spent nuclear fuel?According to a feature done by CNN after the recent Japan disaster is the innovative way Sweden has been disposing of its waste fuel.It has been burying its nuclear waster in copper resistant copper canisters and burying them under 500m of crystalline bedrock in Osthammar in central Sweden,the idea though is yet to get final approval.

Something else that we need to admit is that we definitely lack the technical expertise for this kind of project and it is almost given that we will need expatriate help for such a project.

Another concern is safety ,with nuclear power plants needing 24 hour surveillance and monitoring are we going to invest enough resources whether monetary or in terms of infrastructure to ensure we adhere to the strictest standards.In case of any eventualities,how will the response be?with our government unable to ensure and enforce safety standards in structural buildings what assurance can we get from the stake holders and partners in the project.

It is my wish to see this country develop,but with the rest of the world looking for alternative sources of energy ,have we exhausted all avenues of generating alternate sources from wind and solar power?Geothermal power generation is still in its infancy and we are yet to feel its contribution in the power grid.Kenyans are still experiencing power outages,new customers seeking to enjoy hydro electric power are still kept waiting because poles are not available or meters have not been sourced.Nuclear power demands that we need to be on top of our game and with the power company battling power cable thieves,transformer vandalism,electric fires are we sure we can harness nuclear power with the utmost dexterity?

In my opinion we need to exhaust the safest and cheapest means available before we tackle nuclear power generation.It has so many unknowns and with countries that have been using nuclear power like China,India and Pakistan reviewing their use of this kind of power in light of the Fukushima disaster,we need to take all the concerns being raised into consideration as we embark on this ambitious project.

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