France pledges support to Kenya's Sh500 bn nuclear plant project

Experts from German and Italy warned Kenya, urging it to instead boost her renewable energy sector.

 

The French Economy and Finance Minister Michel Sapin said the nuclear-rich European country was looking to offer Kenya technical, engineering and financial support to develop the reactors.

Kenya plans to commission its first nuclear plant starting 2022 in a five-year period at an estimated cost of Sh500 billion.

In the recent past, the People’s Republic of China, Russia, South Korea and Slovakia have since inked various pacts with Kenya in manpower development and skills exchange as they eye a possible deal.

Speaking in Kenya’s capital Nairobi on Sunday after concluding his two-day visit to Kenya during which he presided over the return of Peugeot assembly plant to Kenya after a decade of shut business, French Economy and Finance minister Michel Sapin  expressed a goodwill by his home government to see Kenya become the first East African nation to have the plant.

“We have expressed our readiness to support the construction of the plants. Our support involves everything from expertise to funding,” Sapin said.

Kenya’s first reactor plant is expected to be completed in 2027 and is expected to  produce up to 1,000 megawatts (MW), a 22 per cent of country’s current installed electricity capacity.

Energy solution

The Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board (KNEB), in a press statement, has reckoned that despite the heavy upfront costs, nuclear energy would be the ideal solution to the current power problems experienced in the country.

Already Kenya has identified possible sites for nukes including towns bordering Lakes Turkana (in Northern Kenya) and Victoria (in Western Kenya) and the Indian Ocean. The water bodies, experts say, are meant to cool the nuke reactors.

France is a renowned world producer of nuclear energy and boasts of being a third generation reactors known as European pressurised reactors (EPR), whose technology is owned by French giant Areva and has been adopted by China and Finland.

Already South Africa has her plans underway to add more nuclear power plants. The energy demand for South Africa is much higher than Kenya’s.

Renewable energy debate

In recent engagement with the Kenya’s energy sector stakeholders, experts from Italy and Germany October advised Kenya to drop her plans of building a nuclear reactor. The team instead advised Kenya to harness its vast renewable energy resources for power generation.

The experts, attending a renewable energy conference in Nairobi, reckoned that Kenya is better off developing more geothermal wells, solar parks and wind farms.

Experts had cited massive costs for a nuke plant, long construction periods of about 10 years and expensive decommissioning of plants at the end of their lifespan, especially disposing of hazardous radioactive waste.

Massive destruction

Italy shut down its last nuke plant in 1990 and the people voted against the atomic technology in a 2011 referendum.

German, on the other hand, is planning to pull off its nuclear energy supply from the national grid by 2022, and adopt green energy.

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