• The plant, according to Nupea CEO Justus Wabuyabo, will be commissioned in 2034.
• The CEO said they will continue to engage with the community and other stakeholders to ensure all arising issues are properly addressed.
The Nuclear Power and Energy Agency has once again dismissed claims it will endanger the lives and livelihoods of residents of Uyombo in Matsangoni, Kilifi North, in Kilifi county.
The area has been identified for construction of a nuclear power plant, amid opposition from residents and environmentalists.
However, Nupea said they will ensure safety and security of the people and the environment, before they start construction in 2027.
The plant, according to Nupea CEO Justus Wabuyabo, will be commissioned in 2034.
“We are currently carrying site characterisation to confirm the Kilifi site is best-suited for the nuclear power plant,” he told the Star on the phone on Tuesday.
On Monday, environmental activists, led by Centre for Justice, Governance and Environmental Action executive director Phyllis Omido, said they will not relent in opposing the nuclear plant.
This was after the activists were summoned to Matsangoni chief’s office on accusations of inciting residents.
Calling the agency illegal, Omido claimed Nupea has been using all means, including bribery, intimidation and downright arrogance, to make Uyombo residents consent to the establishment of the nuclear plant in their neighbourhood.
“Nupea is wasting taxpayers money. The Presidential Taskforce on the Review of Power Purchase Agreements that Uhuru [retired President Kenyatta] set up said Nupea should be disbanded. This is an illegal entity. This is enraging the people of Uyombo,” she said.
However, Wabuyabo dismissed the accusations as banter by the activist.
He said Nupea is a state corporation established under the Energy Act of 2019 and which can only be abolished by another Act of Parliament.
Wabuyabo said before that, it was a state corporation known as Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board established under a legal notice.
“It is true the Presidential Taskforce on the Review of Power Purchase Agreements had recommended the disbandment of Nupea, but it was subject to a legal process, including the amendment of the Energy Act,” he said.
However, Wabuyabo said, the proposal was taken to Parliament but did not see light of day and Nupea was not disbanded.
The Energy ministry also prepared a memorandum to Parliament, indicating that Nupea must continue to exist.
“Since President Ruto came into office, there have been two Executive Orders and both have recognised Nupea as a state corporation under the Energy ministry,” Wabuyabo said.
He said the country is looking for ways of producing electricity through nuclear to become energy-secure.
The CEO said they will continue to engage with the community and other stakeholders to ensure all arising issues are properly addressed.
“We recognise a nuclear power plant is a unique project, which requires that all persons involved are educated about it and if there are any concerns, they are raised on the table and addressed,” Wabuyabo said.
He said Kenya is addressing the 19 infrastructure issues that have been proposed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a specialised United Nations agency that deals with nuclear issues.
“One of the things they expect us to do before we start constructing the nuclear power plant is to look into the issues of safety and security,” Wabuyabo said.
But Omido claimed Nupea is trying to impose a nuclear reactor in a Unesco biosphere area.
“This area is nestled between the Arabuko Sokoke forest and the Watamu marine park. How do you put a nuclear power plant right in the middle? It does not make sense,” the CJGEA executive director said.
In response, Wabuyabo said the Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority will be licensing all activities involving nuclear.
“Before they start licensing us to start construction, they will require us to satisfy them about the safety and security features that we will have put in place to ensure the nuclear power plant will have no risk to humans and the environment,” he said.
“We cannot do anything that will interfere with the environment or pose danger to the people and their livelihoods,” Wabuyabo said.
He said if any risk is identified, mitigation measures will be put in place.
These may include, if need be, relocation of the nuclear power plant.
“For the time being, we are proceeding because from the sittings that we have done, we are sure this is not within Unesco’s Arabuko Sokoke forest,” Wabuyabo said.