News that the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board (KNEB) has sent out an international bid for the development of nuclear sites is both encouraging and also unsettling.
Kenya has several other sources of energy which have not been fully exploited meaning that jumping into nuclear energy is not a priority.
The country should first invest in other clean energy sources before investing in the very unstable nuclear energy.
Why this apprehension and discomfort with nuclear energy in Kenya?
Kenya is known for its morbid abuse of power by those in government and having a nuclear energy project or projects would see these kinds clamour for a share of the pie.
Just like with the Standard Gauge Railway whose figures were bloated to accommodate and line the pockets of the well connected, the nuclear project will not be immune to these manipulations.
Secondly, the country is known for taking shortcuts when it comes to big spending projects.
In this, there are risks-known and imagined- that would come with the nuclear energy project.
While it is another not so welcome source of energy, just like with the geothermal and the Turkana wind energy project, it is not very clear to the public why venturing into nuclear power is a priority.
The parliamentary Energy Committee earlier in the year visited the AtomeXp nuclear energy conference in Sochi, Russia, where they were enlightened on the safer use of the technology.
Kajiado North MP and head of the delegation, Joseph Manje said, “We have been educated on nuclear issues. The myth that we had heard about nuclear that is explosive and can bring calamity to our country is now clear to us.
However, this enlightenment is with the politicians and not the ordinary citizens making it even more questionable.
A parallel with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster
Seven years after the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan was destroyed by an earthquake and a tsunami, there are still lethal levels of radiation being detected.
As it is, Kenya is decades behind in terms of technology and the idea that nuclear power would be the panacea to the power problems in the country is misplaced.
What would happen if a disaster in the magnitude of what happened in Kenya struck?
While these fears may be addressed on paper, putting them into practice is another whole new thing altogether.
Kenya’s economic development blueprint from the 70s was implemented by the Asian Tigers and they are now decades ahead. Their GDP and other measures of success show they have managed to propel their countries forward while Kenya stagnates. The Vision 2030 is just a few years away and it may not be achieved.
So, why do we think it will be different with nuclear power?
In the bid issued by the KNEB, requirements are for site characterization to develop an understanding of the geologic, hydrologic and engineering properties at the site. This includes soil type, rock, groundwater and the spatial and temporal assessment if contaminants are present.
KNEB notes that it has already identified several sites where the nuclear electricity sites will be located and is seeking a company that will be able to identify the suitability of such sites against natural disasters, human activity and general security.
Decommissioning Tokyo Electric Power Company‘s (Tepco’s) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant
On Tuesday, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts completed the fourth review mission towards the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (NPS).
The International Peer Review of Japan’s Mid-and-Long-Term Roadmap towards the Decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station took place from 5 to 13 November 2018.
Japan has reportedly made significant progress since the accident in March 2011, advancing from an emergency situation towards a stable situation now.
The team said this achievement will now allow Japan to focus more resources on detailed planning and implementation of decommissioning activities of the whole site, with considerations extended up to completion.
In Kenya, we have seen disasters come and go without permanent resolution despite billions being set aside for such occurrences.
If floods and famines which can be mitigated are never handled well, why does the country need to add another problem and challenge in the name of power sufficiency?
According to President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya targets to attain 100 per cent transition to green energy by 2020 as it scales up investment in renewable energy.
Kenyatta who spoke during a roundtable discussion on “Don’t drop climate efforts” session of the Paris Peace Forum in France said that renewable energy makes up 70 per cent of Kenya’s installed electric power capacity.
And so the question begs: since Kenya has many other alternatives which have not been exploited, is nuclear energy the next best option and for who?