SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Nuclear energy can fast-track Kenya's industrialisation

Nuclear power has demonstrated its stability, environmental sustainability, safety and cost-effectiveness

In Summary

• If Kenya sets itself the goal of rapid industrialisation to seriously compete in international markets, it would make sense to consider the nuclear option.

• Presently, nuclear energy provides about 16 per cent of the global electricity generation (20 per cent in developed countries).

A nuclear power plant. Uganda asked Russia for help in the development of nuclear power.
A nuclear power plant. Uganda asked Russia for help in the development of nuclear power.
Image: FILE

I have been following the debate in the Kenyan media on the prospects of nuclear energy in Kenya.

A frank and meaningful discussion on this subject is very positive and healthy because the choice of the energy solutions in any country will impact its development and the place it will acquire in the global economy and division of labour.

Russia’s experience shows accelerated industrialisation needs a massive and reliable generation of affordable energy. Increasingly important are also considerations of environmental protection.

Therefore, more and more attention is being paid to renewable sources of energy, which are an important part of the mix, if a country’s specific circumstances allow it. In the case of Kenya, it is perfectly logical to tap the potential of its vast solar, wind and geothermal resources.

However, if Kenya sets itself the goal of rapid industrialisation to seriously compete in international markets without compromising its commitment to combat climate change, it would equally make a lot of sense to consider the nuclear generation of electricity option.

In terms of total life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy generated, nuclear power plants have emissions values comparable to or lower than renewable energy facilities. According to the International Energy Agency, over the past 50 years, nuclear energy generation has reduced GHG emissions by over 60 gigatonnes (two years’ worth global energy-related emissions).

Presently, nuclear energy provides about 16 per cent of the global electricity generation (20 per cent in developed countries). It is true that some developed countries, for reasons best known to them, have decided to phase out their nuclear power.

However, his should not obscure the fact that an ever-increasing number of fastest-growing states around the globe are building nuclear energy programmes to ensure access to safe, clean, stable and affordable energy.

It is equally true that there are a number of concerns over the safety of nuclear plants and to the disposal of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste. But there exist already viable and proven technological solutions to address these concerns.

The so-called “post-Fukushima” standards of safety and security applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency provide a very convincing assurance of safety of the nuclear installations. Under IAEA rule, all nuclear power installations around the world are subject to international inspections and monitoring to ensure their safety and security.

As to the issue of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste, there are effective technologies that allow countries lacking the capability to address it to send those materials to where such facilities exist.

For instance, ROSATOM, the Russian Atomic Energy Agency is actively collaborating with its international partners to take them back to Russia for safe and secure disposal, recycling, and reuse as valuable raw materials.

The creation of a nuclear industry requires a serious effort to create national capacity in many high-tech fields with great economic and commercial benefits such as science, research, medical isotopes, agricultural produce preservation, etc.

Russia offers a scholarship programme in nuclear science (and many Kenyan students have used this opportunity to obtain the degree of nuclear engineer).

In 1954, Russia was the first country in the world to design and build a nuclear reactor for the peaceful use of power generation. At present, nuclear generation in 35 plants provides 17 per cent of nationally produced electricity.

ROSATOM is the global leader in terms of the number of simultaneously implemented nuclear reactor construction projects in Europe, Africa, and Asia with a total of 36 projects. State-of-the-art technology of the newest “Generation 3+” Russian reactor VVER-1200 with the most advanced safety systems fully conforming to IAEA requirements ensure a solid competitive position in the international market.

Estimates show every dollar invested in a ROSATOM nuclear project contributes approximately $4.3 to the country’s GDP.

In the challenging times of Covid-19 pandemic and economic crisis it triggered, nuclear power has demonstrated its stability, environmental sustainability, safety and cost-effectiveness.

None of ROSATOM construction sites have halted work neither in Russia, nor abroad.

Dmitry Maksimychev is Russia's ambassador to Kenya