ENERGY GENERATION

Kenya does not need a nuclear power station

In Summary

• The Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board has applied to Nema for permission to build a nuclear power station on the River Tana

• Kenya already has more power than it needs with installed capacity of 2,600 Mw and peak demand of 2,000 Mw

A file photo of the Koeberg power station in South Africa, the only nuclear-fuelled power facility on the African continent.
A file photo of the Koeberg power station in South Africa, the only nuclear-fuelled power facility on the African continent.
Image: REUTERS

Kenya intends to build a $5 billion (Sh540 billion) nuclear power plant on the Tana River.

This week the Business Daily reported that the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board submitted a regulatory filing to Nema for an initial 1,000 Mw plant which could be quadrupled by 2035. 

The nuclear power station would be built by a private concessionaire but the Kenyan taxpayer would still have to pay for it through a Power Purchase Agreement with Kenya Power.

This nuclear power station should not go ahead for multiple reasons.

Firstly, Kenya already has a generated power surplus. Kenya peak demand is around 2,000 Mw and its already installed capacity is 2,600 Mw. This Tana River power plant is not needed.

As a result, Kenyan consumers pay well above the world-average price for their electricity because the excess electricity that Kenya Power has committed to purchase but cannot sell. This is an argument against any new PPAs, not just the Tana River nuclear power station.

Secondly, nuclear power is inherently risky. It is 'clean' because it does not have carbon emissions but if there is a radiation leak (as in Chernobyl or Fukushima), it can make the surrounding area uninhabitable. The KNEB argues that hydropower is unreliable because of the risk of drought but equally, if the Tana River dried up, without water the nuclear power station would blow up.

Thirdly, and most importantly, nuclear power is expensive. Globally the kilowatt cost of solar and wind energy is already well below nuclear power. Kenya also has large reserves of oil in Turkana which could be used cheaply to fuel conventional power stations.

Kenya should scrap the idea of having its own nuclear power station.

Quote of the day: "Poverty is not socialism. To be rich is glorious."

Deng Xiaoping
The Chinese politician was born on August 22, 1904