A team of 11 Kenyan students have commenced training in a South Korean nuclear graduate school in a move aimed at boosting local capacity for nuclear energy generation.
The 11 who are drawn from various parastatals in the Ministry of Energy are undertaking postgraduate studies in Nuclear Science at the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) training school, Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat, director general, Mugo Kibati has said.
This is part of the government master plan to increase Kenya’s installed electricity capacity to over 19,000MW in the next two decades through diversification.
“As part of the wider effort to enhance and diversify our electricity generation capacity, Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat is encouraged that a team of Kenyans students are now taking their Nuclear Science studies in Korea,” Mr Kibati said.
The eleven postgraduate students who enrolled this year, Mr Kibati disclosed, will pursue a comprehensive two-year masters degree programme in nuclear engineering.
Upon graduation, the nuclear scientists will play a key role in laying the groundwork for Kenya’s nuclear electricity generation plans over the next two decades as envisaged in the Vision 2030 national development policy.
The move has however been the focus of sharp criticism due to safety concerns given the nuclear disaster that rocked Japan after the Tsunami, and other disasters such as the Chernobyl tragedy which have seen some developed countries move to cut their reliance on nuclear power.
Besides the 11, six students drawn from the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board, Kenya Power and Lighting Company and Kenya’s Radiation Protection Board admitted last year are now concluding their two year Masters Studies in power generation, power transmission, and radiation safety.
The integration of a nuclear electricity generation plant in Kenya is part of a continental effort by more than 12 African governments to facilitate the diversification of power generation.
Locally, 28 students sponsored by Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board (KNEB) are currently undertaking Master of Science in Nuclear Science degree course at the University of Nairobi’s Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology.
KNEB executive chairman Ochilo Ayacko says that it is within the mandate of the organisation to build the capacity and human resource skills of Kenyans in this specialized field.
“We are using local and international resources to enable Kenyans to be trained to an adequate level of competency to run all aspects of the Nuclear Power Programme.”
Ayacko says that a nuclear power programme has three key facets: a Nuclear Electricity Programme Implementing Organisation (NEPIO) - which is the role KNEB is performing, a regulator who will ensure application of nuclear technology is done safely with safeguards for human life and property. The third arm is the operator, which is the body that will run the nuclear power plant.
“All these organisations require highly skilled manpower, conscious of safety, security and safeguards requirements as per the International Atomic Energy Agency’s guidelines,” Mr Ayacko said.
The net benefit of the increased power generation capacity will be a more competitive country, which is able to attract foreign investors, stimulate growth of the manufacturing sector, ensure energy security and ultimately the achievement of the Vision 2030 flagship projects.