Nuclear Energy for Ghana

Feature Article of Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Columnist: Kweku, Dadzie Isaac

…..a must and urgent need for the people

By Dadzie Isaac Kweku

In the early months of the Mahama-NDC administration, debates over which of the various possible sources of alternate power supply would be most suitable for the country at this stage of our development, have again resurfaced in all public circles . Ghanaians have been saddled with severe water crisis and irregular supply of electricity. This has come as a result of the failure of our Government to commit enough resources into other forms of power generation to enhance our electricity supply which in effect has an industrial correlation with water production.

Unlike those early years of the CPP Government when industrial growth was sparked by the completion of the Akosombo Hydro-electric dam and efforts to start a nuclear reactor, under the Ghana Atomic Energy Project, to produce nuclear energy for our then rapid emerging manufacturing industry, today, many people contemplate about the short supply of electricity in our homes and small existing industries. Most people think that adequate social redistribution of our investment into strategic areas such as power generation and efficient transmission will set the pace for rapid industrial growth as it was done by the CPP Government under a socialist-driven policy framework.

On November 25th 1964, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah made the following remarks at the ceremony inaugurating the Atomic Energy Project. He stated that “we have therefore been compelled to enter the field of Atomic energy, because this already promises to yield the economic source of power since the beginning of man. Our success in this field would enable us to solve the many sided problems which face us in all the spheres of our development in Ghana and in Africa.” From the aforementioned statement the fundamental question to begin with is whether nuclear power should be the most urgent energy priority to rapidly increase our energy supply to overcome incessant crisis in the energy sector under the Mahama-NDC administration, given the current state of our economy and other energy sources?

Researchers and energy policy advisors have argued that our development depends on adequate supply of reliable and effective use of affordable energy and make claims that its production has economic and environmental cost. They therefore propose that a balance is needed because the long term environmental and social cost of energy can erode anticipated socio-economic gains.

According to Ing. Robert Woode, a comprehensive approach to solving Ghana’s problems will therefore be viable. He calls for a complete faith in atomic energy and believes is the safest and the cheapest among all sources of energy. However, he holds the opinion that since the initial cost of establishing atomic energy is high, Ghana must exhaust the potentials of all the energy sources before we come to atomic energy usage.

Nuclear energy for electricity generation is becoming a stronger case as an alternate energy source, especially when compelling arguments are also made of the case for solar energy. In future detail analysis of cost and security of both cases will be presented. But generally, the issue of energy has become a fundamental component of the country’s energy debate. Our electricity situation is frightening with Hydro from Akosombo and Kpong producing roughly 1180 MW and Thermal producing 1005.5 MW which total as 2185.5 MW installed capacity of electricity.

Energy researchers and nuclear policy experts have been able to identify seven main issues that would determine the development of Ghana’s Nuclear Power Programme. The nature of our economy (especially its pattern of production and distribution) and the financial investment, the development of the Nuclear infrastructure and the implementation, the consideration of nuclear safety and environment impact, the protection of the physical structure in order to ensure radiation protection and avoid the Fukushima situation and most importantly, an independent Nuclear Regulatory Authority to ensure the Legal institutional framework for the development and management of the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme.

The need for mass education is also vital in this process since most people are either misinformed or have negative perception about nuclear power because of two major factors which includes the impact of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the World War II in 1945 and subsequent trends in global politics on the fear of nuclear proliferation and other biological and chemical weapons . In the upcoming article, a deeper perspective would be provided about these two major factors and its implications for Ghana.

Despite the challenges that come with any technological advancement there are great strides and enormous development impact to a society. In this regard, some countries have exceedingly profited and socially benefitted from the production of nuclear power to propel industries and make life easier in their domestic homes. There are about 437 operational nuclear power reactors in 31 countries providing about 5.7% of the world’s energy and 13% of global electricity. It is established that more than 150 naval vessels using nuclear propulsion are also in operation. In South Africa, there are two reactors generating 5.5% of its electricity. Its first commercial production began in 1984 and now generates 12.9TWh from its two nuclear plants. Currently, there is a draft plan to add 6 more reactors to boost their installed capacity to over 9600MWe by 2030. The nuclear science advancements in these countries have become a compelling example for Ghana.

According to I.J. K Abbor (2013), nuclear power as a proven technology has been in existence since World War II. Electricity from nuclear is increasing in Far East, Middle East, South Asia and Eastern Europe. France generates 80% of total electricity from nuclear whiles the United States generates 20% of its power needs from nuclear. China has 16 nuclear reactors and constructing additional reactors. Despite the major traumatic experiences in Japan, the country has revised its nuclear power policy. Mexico has taken an extraordinary and strategic step in its energy sector by diversifying its energy supplies into nuclear electricity and planning to construct an additional plant. There is a strong network among operators of nuclear power plants worldwide through the effort of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). There are about 43 countries without Nuclear power including Ghana who have stated to the IAEA to participate in Technical Cooperation projects to introduce nuclear power. The Ghana Nuclear Society, the Graduate School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences and the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission has been very instrumental as lead-organisations here in Ghana in ensuring that the country stays current on the technological advancement in the nuclear discipline and promote its rapid development.

The Ministry of Energy should demonstrate strong policy support and long term commitment of the Government in propelling this most urgent energy need for the country. Most people do not see the effect of parading journalist to thermal and hydrological generating plants by para-state organs in the energy sector to reduce the people’s perception about the inefficiencies in the energy sector under the existing neo-colonial power-sector arrangement. These opinions are formed based on direct effect of periodic, unreliable and fluctuating power supply at most homes and few industries.

Energy is life and undoubtedly a strategic component in the value-chain of production. Nuclear was identified as early as the 1960s when most countries have not thought of developing even research institutions solely for the scientific study of nuclear science and technology but Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and his CPP Government laid a foundation to develop both the institutional and technological development of nuclear power as a source of electricity to complement the hydro-power from Akosombo. This was not just a fulfillment of a dream but now inevitable to the country.