The Indian Ocean, Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana have been identified as top contenders for hosting the first nuclear power plant that Kenya plans to build in the next 8-10 years.
The Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA) said it has contracted a Chinese firm- China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC)- determine the most suitable location in an ambitious two-year Site Characterisation study.
NuPEA put the consultation cost at Sh50 million.
The National Assembly’s Energy committee on Tuesday heard that the exercise is expected to cost taxpayers Sh1.5 billion.
“Currently, we have zeroed in at the coast along the Indian Ocean, Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana as the most ideal sites. We have excluded the Rift Valley because we need enough water to cool the plant,” Mr Collins Juma, the NuPEA chief executive said.
Even as the agency plans to set up the nuclear power plant with a 1,000 megawatt (MW) capacity by 2027, the Energy ministry has always argued that the country should only turn to atomic power when it has fully exploited other sources of energy.
Hydropower accounts for 35 percent of Kenya’s electricity generation, with the rest coming from geothermal, wind and diesel powered plants, the ministry says.
Plans to develop a 1,050-megawatt coal-fired plant on the coast, using funding from China, have been delayed by court action from environmental activists.
NuPEA forecasts its capacity rising to a total 4,000MW by 2033 making nuclear electricity a key component of the country’s energy mix.
“Two years is an ambitious timeline to get coordinates for site characterisation. Characterisation takes long because Turkey, Nigeria and Russia took three years. We should be talking of three years,” Mr Juma told MPs.
He said NuPEA has entered into a Sh50 million consultancy with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) for the characterisation study.
The agency said it has trained 29 Kenyans on nuclear energy, all of whom graduated with Master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from top universities in Korea, China and Russia.
Kenya views nuclear power both as a long-term solution to high fuel costs — incurred during times of drought when diesel generators are used — and an effective way to cut carbon emissions from the power generating sector.