Nuclear experts to inspect Kenya

Wednesday March 30 2011

By JUSTUS ONDARI [email protected]

A team of nuclear safety inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is in Kenya.

Although the visit from the global nuclear technology watchdog is routine, the inspectors are also expected to examine Kenya’s ambitions for nuclear energy and advise the government accordingly.

This happens as debate rages globally on the safety of nuclear energy, with damaged reactors in Japan causing radiation fears.

“The IAEA inspectors are here for their normal work in line with the international conventions on peaceful use of nuclear technology that Kenya has ratified,” a source in the energy sector said on condition of anonymity because he is not mandated to comment on such matters.

Among the conventions are the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, IAEA Additional Protocol, Small Quantities Protocol and Comprehensive Safety Agreement.

Meanwhile, the world’s chief nuclear inspector, Mr Yukiya Amano, is expected in Nairobi today for a United Nations meeting, raising the stakes for Kenya as it lays the groundwork for tapping nuclear energy to supplement its supply from hydro and geothermal sources.

The IAEA director-general is expected to meet senior Kenya government officials, including the Foreign and Energy ministers, early next week.

Kenya’s nuclear energy plans have met some resistance, with Naivasha MP John Mututho vowing to lobby fellow legislators to block them over safety concerns.

The government projects power consumption to grow at 8 per cent annually to hit 15,000MW by 2030.

With the current capacity being 1,296MW, the nuclear committee argues that East Africa’s biggest economy has to go nuclear to satisfy this demand.