Nuclear energy will play key role in Kenya’s national Strategy 2030

With a population of about 45 million and a recent nuclear energy MoU with Russia, Kenya is heading towards becoming the leading economy on the African continent.

Economic growth impacts on the lifestyle of citizens, on local businesses, such that the demand for secure electricity increases. Most developing countries struggle to meet growing energy needs. It is an even bigger headache for them to provide sustainable energy at an affordable price.

Kenya had pledged to meet the energy needs of nearly 70% of households, by connecting them to the grid, and adding 5000 MW of installed capacity to the energy system. This goal is at once daunting and ambitious.

There are significant breakthroughs to this effect – 55% of households have been connected to the main grid, which represents nearly 25 million people. Also, over 22 000 schools and 35 towns and urban centers were connected to power.

Yet, there is much more to do. Today electricity in Kenya is mainly generated from geothermal (47%) and hydropower (39%) sources. The country’s current installed electricity capacity is estimated at 2 400 MW. As hydropower accounts for a large percentage of this capacity and relies on unpredictable and intermitted natural conditions, the frequency of power outages remains very high (33%) in comparison to an average figures of South Africa, where the power outage is only 1%. The cost of generated electricity in Kenya is also high at US$0.150 per kWh, almost four times the cost of energy in South Africa (US$0.040).

In Kenya, during the period between 2007 and 2013, energy consumption increased by about 75% due to growing large and small business. Today, the demand has continued to rise and far outpaces supply. Such a discrepancy between supply and demand can be attributed to inadequate energy mix and dependence on two main unreliable energy sources.

In order to diversify energy mix and guarantee sustainable source of energy, the Kenyan government made a firm decision to go on with its plans to build its first NPP to fill the gap of its energy deficit.

According to Joseph Njoroge, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Energy, if Kenya wants to embark on the path of dynamic development it needs between 45 000 MW and 50 000 MW. He also said that options of solar and wind renewable energy cannot guarantee sustainable energy mix due to their vulnerability to natural changes.

The development of nuclear energy is in line with national Strategy 2030, according to which nuclear energy would amount to 19% of energy generation, making nuclear energy the second most important source after geothermal. Nuclear program development has a sound point – clear and sustainable source of energy that can guarantee energy generation for decades.

The move is part of Kenya’s drive to industrialize by 2030 and will provide power for both consumers and investors, but critics said the nation should instead focus on its 10 000 MW of untapped geothermal energy in the Rift Valley basin.

Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board (KNEB) chief executive, Collins Juma, who supported the Strategy 2030 said, countries maximum geothermal energy potential is limited by 10 000 MW, which cannot guarantee sustainable energy supply. Also, he pointed out that renewables like wind and solar cannot serve as a base load as they are too dependent on weather.

While Kenya has committed itself to universal electricity access and to becoming a dynamic economy, the real challenge the country needs to resolve is to ensure that energy supply is reliable and adequate. In this case, nuclear energy development can be a perfect solution.

Nuclear power is a cost-effective and reliable base load power source. In countries that opted for nuclear energy it has ensured uninterrupted power supply for 60-80 years at a predictable price which does not depend on the volatility of global prices for energy resources. For instance, if the price of uranium doubles, the final cost of electricity generated by nuclear power will only increase by roughly 5%, which cannot be said about conventional energy sources.

Nuclear energy is also a key component of a clean and sustainable energy strategy. With nuclear energy, it is possible to avoid the emission of over two billion tonnes of CO2 each year. Nuclear energy can address the competing needs for greenhouse gas emissions reduction, economic development and energy security. A wider deployment of nuclear power will reduce the cost of achieving emissions reductions, and increase the chances of meeting climate change objectives.

Nuclear is recognized by the global community as a crucial mitigation technology and many more developing countries are planning to use nuclear generation to meet their emission reduction and energy supply objectives all over the world.

Nuclear power has proven to be one of the safest in the world. Modern nuclear plants have all the necessary requirements set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In particular, modern energy units have a balanced mix of multi-level active and passive safety and security systems. One of the main features of modern reactors is its simple design which has a combination of active and passive safety systems which do not require NPP’s staff intervention in case of emergency. For instance, innovative Russian reactors have a unique passive heat removal system, hydrogen recombiners and active zone “core catcher”. This “catcher” is located in concrete vault under reactor vessel and ensures the melt localization, which excludes possibility of its spillover out of the reactor vessel at NPP under any circumstances. The evidence over six decades shows that nuclear power is a safe means of generating electricity. The risk of accidents in nuclear power plants is low and declining.

Nuclear power is the only large-scale energy-generating technology which takes full responsibility for all its wastes. Nevertheless, the amount of radioactive wastes is small relative to the waste produced by fossil fuel like coal and oil. Used nuclear fuel may be treated as a resource or simply as a waste. Nuclear wastes are neither particularly hazardous nor hard to manage relative to other toxic industrial wastes. Safe methods for the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste are technically proven. Some modern nuclear technologies are capable of reusing nuclear waste making it possible for nuclear industry to become non-waste industry at all.

Another advantage is that the active development of nuclear industry in Kenya can cause high-tech clusters to emerge, which would then integrate different industries like advanced medicine, science and technology. All that will create well-paid jobs and attract foreign investments.

A sustainable energy mix with nuclear power will contribute immensely to the national economy and business. It will help facilitate dynamic progress, increase competitiveness and attractiveness on a global level.

Apart from securing sustainable, low-cost and clean energy, nuclear industry creates thousands of jobs in various fields. For instance, the implementation of the Kudankulam NPP construction project in India has led to the creation of more than 10,000 jobs in the region where the plant operates. This is in addition to the jobs it midwifed in the equipment manufacturing sector. Globally, an average nuclear power plant generates nearly $16 million in local tax revenue per year. This has a direct benefit regarding development of schools, hospitals, roads and other important infrastructure.

Developing nuclear energy has other positive implications like foreign investments in technologies and innovations, improved terms of domestic trade and production. Stabile and balanced energy mix will allow Kenya to meet set targets of GDP and economy growth to become a strong emerging African economy and pioneer for developing new technologies.

Kenya is ready to develop its nuclear power sector. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently endorsed Kenya’s application to include nuclear power in its energy mix. IAEA-led team of international experts who reviewed Kenya’s progress in developing the national infrastructure for a nuclear power programme noted that Kenya has an existing legal and regulatory framework covering radiation sources in agriculture, medicine, industry and research.

Kenya has strong support from IAEA and from Russia, a key member of the nuclear agency. In 2016 Kenya and Russia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote the development of nuclear industry in the East African country. The MoU provide grounds for the creation of a working group for defining mutually beneficial projects, and promotes the realization of Kenya’s plan to create a nuclear energy industry, and any other joint projects of mutual interest.

Both parties have agreed to continue consultations on the practical implementation of the key Kenyan project—the first ever nuclear power generating plant—and on the possibility of Rosatom participating in the project.

How can the Kenyan government leverage on the Public private partnership (PPP) Modal in its quest to realize its development Agenda?

A number of policy measures have to be taken in to account which includes the following:

  • With the projected extraction of oil, gas and coal, Kenya is expected to reduce its over reliance on imported petroleum for heavy energy uses and electricity This is expected to support the government’s policy of reaching middle income status by 2030. However, exploration and extraction of oil, gas and coal requires the right policy and legal framework to be effective. For instance, government needs to play a central role and hereby provide leadership in engaging all policy makers and stakeholders in a bid to come up with policies and international best practises that address issues mainly on local content, technical capacity as well as management of revenues from the extractive industry.
  • A comprehensive strategy and policy framework on Public Private Partnership needs to further be developed in the path towards achieving the projected energy mix in the medium term. In mid-2015, the Ministry of Energy signed a deal with American Sky Power that would see the country increase its power needs from renewable source to an additional 1000mw at a cost of Ksh 220 billion on solar powered system in Lamu, Malindi, Kajiado, Kisumu, Kakamega and Baringo, A similar approach can be adopted in the nuclear energy sub sector .
  • Equally important in ensuring the institutional soundness of the Public Private Partnership model, is the need for periodic reviews and enactment of appropriate legislations by the national and county government to support the public private partnership model.
  • Need for a clear cut means for coordination and collaboration among different development partners. In addition to the projected partnerships, the development partners have come in handy to partner with Kenya‘s progressive attempt in its endeavours to have it address its desired future energy mix.

In essence, if implemented properly, policies enumerated here will offer a fundamental step in attainment of social-economic status that are envisioned in Kenya’s blue print developmental agenda dubbed vision 2030.


Thuo Njoroge Daniel is an Economics & policy Analysis lecturer at School of business Karatina University and a Resident Analyst for GBS Africa on Energy issues. He is also a contributing Author for OGEL Journal