Atomic Energy Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are expected in the country soon to discuss the location characteristics of the proposed Ghana Nuclear electricity plant.
The Director General of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, Professor Edward Akaho who disclosed this to Public Agenda in an interview at the offices of the Commission at Kwabenya, a suburb of Accra, said the visit will provide a further boost to the country’s agenda to explore nuclear energy for electricity generation by 2018 to augment the existing source of power generation in the country.
The IAEA is the world’s regulatory body for nuclear and atomic energy activities. It promotes the safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear technologies.
Professor Akaho said during its visit, the team will assess different locations across the country for suitability of the location of the plant, taking into consideration factors such as geology, seismology, hydro-geology and population of the various locations. Also, as the plant will need constant cooling it will be appropriate to locate it by a water body, appropriately by a major river source or the sea.
In the wake of Ghana’s energy crisis in 2007, the then President John Agyekum Kufuor set up a Nuclear Power Committee to prepare pre-feasibility studies on the country’s chances of expanding its power generation by including nuclear energy.
The committee, chaired by Prof. Daniel Adjei Bekoe, after close to five months of work presented to government a roadmap for adopting nuclear power by 2018.
However, following the Fukushima nuclear energy disaster in Japan last month there has been heated debate among the public about the suitability of nuclear power for the country, especially considering its slack response to emergencies.
Prof Akaho however, gave the assurance that, nuclear energy is a proven technology being used by different countries over 50 years and its accompanying allied technologies have the potential to promote economic development in the country.
“I think we should learn from the experiences of other countries in spite of the current accident,” he urged, explaining that if it had not been for the earthquake, the disaster would not have occurred.
He said it is against this backdrop that Ghana is taking all the necessary precautions to ensure that the highest safety standard is met.
As far as meeting the country’s goal in producing nuclear electricity by 2018 is concerned, he said all is set, and that what remains is a sustained political will to carry the project through. “If there is political will, then strategies can be developed to meet the task,” he said. He continued that, the Commission together with its various institutes and the Graduate School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences of the University of Ghana have trained several scientists who are capable of working on the project when it commences. “Our graduates have produced a lot of publications in various scientific journals on non-power application of nuclear energy. In fact they are waiting for the strong political decision.”
He admitted that initially there will be challenges, but was confident that they can be overcome.
Prof. Akaho, said with an expanding economy and a growing population, Ghana would face major challenges in providing the required energy in a reliable and sustainable manner.
“In terms of regulation Parliament needs to enact a law to establish the Ghana Nuclear Regulatory Authority to be independent of the GAEC,” he said. Such a body should be empowered to perform its statutory duties of licensing all operations and procedures and regulating activities of nuclear power plants in a professional and impartial manner.
Prof. Akaho explained that these moves would help in building the necessary public and international confidence in the country that it would use nuclear for peaceful purposes.
The Director-General explained that the current reactor at Kwabenya will not be used for the purposes of electricity generation. It will continue to remain a research centre and also facilitate the process of establishing the plant, train regulators and personnel for the plant as well as liaise with international institutions on the safe usage of nuclear energy.
On the advantages, Prof. Akaho said although the initial cost of building nuclear plant was high, in the long-term it is inexpensive to operate. To generate 1,000megawatts of nuclear electricity, the country need to invest $1.5billion but maintenance and operational cost is low. “Its emission of Greenhouse gases is the lowest compared to thermal.” Secondly, fuel for the plant’s operation can be stored as long as ten years and has long operational use. Further, the volume of waste is very small.
The peak demand for power for the domestic market is projected to exceed a generating capacity of 3,000 mega watts and 4,000 mega watts in 2015 and 2020 respectively.
The existing installed capacity for electricity generation is 2,044 mega watts made up of 58 per cent hydro, 37 per cent thermal plants and five per cent diesel generators.
The capacity would have to double by 2020 in order to meet the peak power demand, and available renewable energy resources other than hydro can at best provide 10 per cent of the national demand at competitive prices by 2020.
The total available hydro power potential, including the under developed sites, could only contribute up to 44 per cent of total demand by 2020.
Some 30 countries around the world, including South Africa, Brazil and Mexico, generate electricity through 440 nuclear plants. Nigeria has also identified four locations for its future nuclear electricity plant.