Ghana To Go Nuclear As Parliament Considers Bill

Ghana will build its first 1,000 megawatts (MW) nuclear power plant at an estimated cost of $2.5 billion in ten years to offset its energy shortfall if the Nuclear Regulatory Power Bill that is being considered by Parliament becomes law.

When this happens, the country will be following the present trend in developed and developing States which have built, are building and plan to construct nuclear power plants.

Despite the fears and alarm-raising caused by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, there are 64 nuclear power plants currently under construction worldwide. Asia is becoming the hub of nuclear power plants with 41: China alone has 26. Saudi Arabia is building ten plants while the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are constructing two each, with the United Kingdom having two. On January 27, 2013, Bulgaria voted 61% to have nuclear power plants.

The many advantages of nuclear energy, especially its cost-effectiveness and efficiency, make the construction of power plants a compelling choice for many countries. According to experts, a kilogramme of uranium, the raw material for the production of nuclear energy, generates 50,000 kilowatts hour (kWh) of electricity as compared to crude oil and coal which produce 4kWh and 3kWh respectively.

When Ghana’s nuclear power plant starts producing electricity, the country will be second in Africa, after South Africa, to harness nuclear energy for industrial, commercial and domestic use. Nigeria has decided to adopt nuclear power to supplement its current epileptic supply of electricity while other African countries are considering the nuclear power option.

Ghana will initially import uranium to produce its nuclear energy, though it has some quantity of unexploited uranium. Foreign investors are eager to stake their cash in the construction of the power plant through bid invitations, strategic partnership or build-own-operate (which first-timers prefer). Ghana’s nuclear power programme will have to meet global best practices and standards as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must approve and monitor it.

Preparations for the take off the country’s programme are far advanced as the Bill has already gone through its first reading in Parliament. At the weekend, representatives of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), who makeup the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Implementing Organisation (GNPPIO), met the Parliamentary Select Committee on Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation in Koforidua, Eastern Region, to make a strong case for the legislative body to pass the Bill before the end of this year.

As part of the preparatory efforts, the Nuclear Executive Workshop was held in Accra in May by United States Nuclear Regulatory Centre (USNRC). The USNRC will examine the regulatory requirements and assess of the site of the proposed power plant in August this year. Earlier, GAEC and the University of Ghana established the School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences (SNAS) in 2006 to provide human resources that will run the plant, and ensure the continuous training of competent nuclear scientists.

The country’s adoption, production and utilisation of nuclear energy will begin when the Bill is passed and assented by the President. A Bill on nuclear energy was first introduced in Parliament in 2008, but it did not see the light of day after the Mills’ administration came into power in 2009. The urgent need for the country to go for nuclear energy stems from the acute shortage of power, which has culminated in the present load shedding exercise embarked on by the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG).

At the first Editors’ Forum held last Tuesday at Peduase, Eastern Region, the Director-General of the GAEC, Professor B.J. B. Nyarko, made a passionate plea to the government, the public and the media to champion the country’s adoption and application of nuclear power as soon as possible to complement the hydro, thermal and renewable energy mix. Prof. Nyarko noted that there were three major organisational entities typically involved in the development of a nuclear power programme.

These, he mentioned as the government, the owner/ operator of the plant and the regulatory body. ‘Each has a specific role to play, with responsibilities changing as the programme advances. The media is a key stakeholder in the nuclear industry. The involvement of the media in public education is key to the success of the Nuclear Programme in Ghana,’ he stated.

He said there were three phases in the development of the power plants. These are: Considerations before a decision to launch a nuclear power programme is taken; preparatory work for the construction of a power plant; and activities to implement a first plant. The three corresponding milestones to these phases are: Readiness of the country to make a knowledgeable commitment to a nuclear programme; its preparedness to invite bids for the first plant; and its commitment to commission and operate that plant.

According to Prof. Nyarko, in order to deal fully with the generation of nuclear power, Ghana has put up eight technical groups which would play various roles which are complementary. The groups will be responsible for the siting and grid infrastructure assessment; power plant technology assessment; stakeholder involvement; and the environment.

The rest are the techno-economic assessment and financing; regulatory; legal; and the human resource development groups. ‘It is usually assumed that the government will form a group to study and initially promote the development of the programme (called the ‘Nuclear Energy Programme Implementing Organisation’ – NEPIO),’ he said.

Source: Public Agenda

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