Kenya Nuclear Power technology cooperation agreements have been signed with both South Korea and Russia. Kenya also made a similar deal last year with China, despite US advising Kenya to proceed cautiously on nuclear power.
The government may be planning to start producing Kenya nuclear power by the year 2030.
During an eight-day mission in August 2015 a team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Kenya has made “significant progress” in establishing a decision-making framework related to nuclear-power infrastructure.
Kenya has also been participating in US-sponsored projects in East Africa to promote cooperation on technical matters related to the viability of Kenya nuclear power programmes.
“Kenya should utilise nuclear power for it to become a middle-income country in the future,” IAEA Deputy Director Mikhail Chudakov was quoted as saying in Nairobi two months ago.
Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary of state for international security and non-proliferation, took a tough note of caution specifically in regard to Sudan’s plan to build a nuclear power plant with Chinese assistance.
Kenya and other countries aiming to produce nuclear energy should reflect carefully on the consequences of taking that step, he said.
He added, however, that “nuclear energy represents a huge decision for any country to make.
In choosing this means of generating electricity, “you are committing yourself and future generations for hundreds and thousands of years to the nuclear fuel cycle and to the cost of maintaining safe disposal” of radioactive wastes, Mr Countryman noted.
“It’s not a decision to be taken lightly by any country,” he said, adding, “I am concerned about countries pursuing nuclear power because it looks like a good deal today.”
Do we have the ability to manage a Kenya nuclear power station?
Operating a Kenya nuclear power plant requires sophisticated technical, industrial, institutional, and legal capacities. Even the most advanced countries have struggled to manage nuclear power when things go wrong, as highlighted by the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station or even the Chernobyl disaster.
Less advanced nations like Kenya can cause serious concerns within their borders and throughout their regions when they adopt nuclear energy.
How should Kenya balance their growing electricity needs against concerns over their capacity to operate nuclear power stations?
Nuclear radiation accidents and incidents
The Chernobyl disaster, also referred to as the Chernobyl accident or simply Chernobyl, was a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the city of Pripyat, then located in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union (USSR).
An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which spread over much of the western USSR and Europe.
The Chernobyl disaster was the worst nuclear power plant accident in history in terms of cost and casualties. It is one of only two classified as a level 7 event (the maximum classification) on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the other being the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011.
The struggle to contain the contamination and avert a greater catastrophe ultimately involved over 500,000 workers and cost an estimated 18 billion rubles. During the accident itself, 31 people died, and long-term effects such as cancers are still being investigated.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was an energy accident at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima, initiated primarily by the tsunami following the Tōhoku earthquake on 11 March 2011.
Immediately after the earthquake, the active reactors automatically shut down their sustained fission reactions. However, the tsunami destroyed the emergency generators cooling the reactors, causing reactor 4 to overheat from the decay heat from the fuel rods.
The insufficient cooling led to three nuclear meltdowns and the release of radioactive material beginning on 12 March. Several hydrogen-air chemical explosions occurred between 12 March and 15 March.
The Fukushima disaster is the largest nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the second disaster to be given the Level 7 event classification of the International Nuclear Event Scale.
Though there have been no fatalities linked to radiation due to the accident, the eventual number of cancer deaths, according to the Linear no-threshold theory of radiation safety, that will be caused by the accident is expected to be around 130-640 people in the years to come.
The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation and World Health Organization report that there will be no increase in miscarriages, stillbirths or physical and mental disorders in babies born after the accident.
There are no clear plans for decommissioning the plant, but the plant management estimate is 30 or 40 years. A frozen soil barrier is being constructed to prevent ongoing exposure of running groundwater with melted-down nuclear fuel.
According to Greenpeace organisation Nuclear waste is produced at every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining and enrichment, to reactor operation and the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.
Much of this nuclear waste will remain hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years, leaving a poisonous legacy to future generations.
Decommissioning nuclear facilities will also create large amounts of radioactive wastes. Many of the world’s nuclear sites will require monitoring and protection for centuries after they are closed down.
Most of the current proposals for dealing with highly radioactive nuclear waste involve burying it in deep underground sites. Whether the storage containers, the store itself, or the surrounding rocks will offer enough protection to stop radioactivity from escaping in the long term is impossible to predict.