Nuclear energy for Ghana, an urgent need for the people

Nuclear energy for Ghana, an urgent need for the people

The energy crisis in Ghana has become endemic. In the following article, I consider the Ghanaian situation. I promise to provide deeper perspectives on some of the issues raised. I say to you today, my friends, in spite of the difficulties and frustration of the moments, I still have a dream…. I have a dream that one day; Ghanaians are going to utilize nuclear energy as a source of energy being available in all the villages and cities of the ten regions of Ghana.

Particularly in the last seven (7) years as Ghanaians have witnessed fluctuations in power and water supply, everyday conversations have been dominated by the hardships and discomfort caused by these shortages. This has also led to serious debate among those sections of the population who are interested in issues of public policy with regard to finding a long term and sustainable solution to power supply for both domestic consumption and industrial usage.

Ghanaians are paying a high price for this and there are instances of families spending as much as GH¢ 30 a day on diesel for their generators and sometimes as much as GH¢ 200 a month on water. Undoubtedly this burden that is carried by the public is the result of the failure of our GovernmentS to commit enough resources to other forms of power generation to enhance our electricity supply which in effect has correlation to water production and distribution.

Under the first Republic, industrial growth was sparked by the completion of the Akosombo Hydro-electric dam. In addition to identifying other areas such as Bui, the Tano and Ankobra for increasing power supply nationally, the Nkrumah government started planning for a nuclear reactor under the Ghana Atomic Energy Project to produce nuclear energy for our then rapidly emerging manufacturing industries.

The fact that today many people worry about the short supply of electricity to homes and existing small industries shows that we have regressed rather than progressed in the arena of power supply. It must be obvious to all that it is imperative that we embark on a programme to prioritize direct investment in strategic areas such as power generation which will set the pace for rapid industrial growth as it was done by the Nkrumah’s Government within a 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 (most?) 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.”

In the light of the ongoing crisis and the growing need for ever increasing quantities of power supply for a fast growing population, should we not return to the issue of nuclear power? We have heard why Nkrumah with his foresight chose nuclear power which coupled with the programme for more dams would certainly have made us avoid the present power/energy deficit. We should now raise the level of the debate and be imaginative enough to ask our government to re-visit the nuclear power option and urge that this be made an urgent priority. We need to overcome this incessant dumso dumso crisis (put-on-put-off put-on-put off) with a radical solution – a crisis which seems to have reached epic proportions under our currents administration and for which there are no clear solutions in sight.

Researchers and Energy policy advisors argue 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 costs. 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 the renowned engineer and inventor, Robert Woode, a comprehensive approach to solving Ghana’s problems will therefore be viable. He advises for a complete faith in atomic energy and believes it 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 for solar energy. In future issues of this publication, detailed analyses of costs and safety of both cases will be presented. Our electricity situation is alarming because we are not generating enough with Hydro from Akosombo and Kpong which is producing roughly 1180 MW and Thermal producing 1005.5 MW which total as 2185.5 MW installed capacity of electricity.

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 its implementation, the consideration of nuclear safety and environment impact, the protection of the physical structure in order to ensure protection from radiation and to 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.

Many people are ill-informed and have a negative perception about Nuclear Power because of two factors which include the impact of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the World War II in 1945 and trends in global politics about the fear of nuclear proliferation and other biological and chemical weapons. In the upcoming edition, a deeper perspective would be provided about these two factors and its implications for Ghana.

Abroni K. Thomas
Executive Director