April 26, 2010 / 6:05 PM / in 8 years

Kenya should aim for nuclear power by 2020: council

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya should embark on a programme to start generating nuclear energy by 2020 to meet its growing electricity needs, the country’s state-run economic advisory council said on Monday.

<p>Electricity pylons carry power from Cape Town's Koeberg nuclear power plant July 17, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings</p>

East Africa’s largest economy relies on hydropower to generate about 65 percent of its electricity but has started investing in geothermal plants and wind farms to diversify its energy sources.

Julius Muia, secretary to Kenya’s National Economic and Social Council (NESC), said its recommendation reflected the global trend of shifting away from fossil fuels to other energy sources.

“For us, to have sustainable development, we need reliable non-polluting sources of energy,” he told a news conference.

“Thus one of our recommendations to the government is to look at the possibility of nuclear energy ... and if the current consultations continue we are looking at 2020 to 2022 when we should be generating nuclear power,” Muia said.

NESC is charged with providing the government with new policies to accelerate economic growth, create employment and reduce poverty in an economy where agriculture accounts for a quarter of gross domestic product.

Kenya often suffers power cuts and the situation was exacerbated last year when drought cut water levels behind dams supplying several hydropower plants.

Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi has said the country is targeting at least 5,000 MW of geothermal energy by 2030.

South Africa is the only country on the continent with a nuclear power plant but a number of African nations are considering turning to nuclear electricity generation.

It is seen by many as a long-term solution to high fuel costs and an effective way to cut carbon emissions from the power generating sector.

Although nuclear energy production has high upfront costs, Muia said, it becomes much cheaper on a per unit basis in the long run compared to other sources.

The NESC also advised the government to push for more steel production to help the country meet its development goals, outlined in a plan know as Vision 2030.

“The infrastructure required for Kenya to realise its Vision 2030 will need a lot of steel and it’s also important for the strengthening of the manufacturing sector in Kenya,” he said.

Muia said Kenya had substantial deposits of key minerals required for steel manufacturing -- iron ore, coal and limestone -- and that it had asked the government to expedite exploration.

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