(REUTERS) – Kenya is seeking investors and technical knowledge to build a small nuclear plant to meet growing electricity needs, says energy minister Mr Kiraitu Murungi.
The country with the region’s biggest economy can generate 1,100 megawatts of electricity compared with peak time demand of 1,050. That capacity includes emergency supplies from independent power producers.
“We are thinking of a small plant to generate about 1,000 megawatts initially. From very rough castings, initially it will cost us about US$1 billion,” Kiraitu Murungi told reporters on Monday.
The energy minister said the country could become a major electricity exporter to the region if the plans succeed.
“Use of nuclear power for civil and peaceful uses is now accepted globally. So we in Kenya should not be afraid when the word nuclear is mentioned,” Murungi said.
He said the country wants to add a million new connections to its electricity grid over the next five years — doubling the electricity consumer base.
The government is holding a national energy conference next month to discuss ways to boost cost-effective energy supply.
Apart from South Africa Nigeria is the other country with plans to plans to build nuclear power plants to meet a major part of the West African country’s electricity demand by 2015.
Two years ago the country set a target for to generate 40 000 megawatts of electricity within the next decade, with a significant part coming from nuclear energy, Nigeria runs two nuclear research centres, one in the northern town of Zaria and another outside the capital, Abuja, set up under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear regulatory body.
It currently has no nuclear power plant. Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil and gas producer and the world’s eighth-biggest oil exporter, but remains a low electricity generator and consumer.
The country runs on less than half of national capacity of 6 000 megawatts of electricity, with power cuts frequent and the electricity infrastructure run down by years of corruption and mismanagement.
Justifying their quest for nuclear power a government official said the country could not rely on its natural gas, coal and hydroelectric resources alone to meet its energy requirements.
Nigeria had then confirmed that it had no ambition to acquire nuclear weapons and would comply with all international requirements for safe use of nuclear energy.
However this did not stop the G8 from questioning the country’s intentions. In June, the world’s most powerful nations, the G8, expressed fears over Nigeria’s quest to acquire nuclear technology.
The were reported to be uncomfortable with Nigeria’s programme citing safety and security concerns despite the country’s position that the nuclear power is purely meant for electricity supply.
Confirming the G8 concerns to Africa News, the Director General of the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Agency Shamsedeen Eleba, said most of these countries are cynical about the level of safety and some even had questioned the country’s level of responsibility because it is something that just one little mistake and every body is affected.