After years of delays and pre-feasibility tests, Kenyan officials have selected two sites for the East African nation’s first nuclear energy production facilities. The project will be run in partnership with China’s National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).
Kenya’s Nuclear Power and Energy Authority (NuPEA), scheduled to break ground at the end of the decade, will add 1 000 megawatts (MW) to Kenya’s capacity, joining South Africa as one of the only nuclear-powered nations on the continent.
Kilifi and Kwale were chosen by Collins Juma, chief executive officer of NuPEA as potential sites for the project because of their proximity to an abundance of water – both areas lie within 50 kilometres of the coastal city of Mombasa.
Inland sites like Lake Victoria, Lake Turkana and regions in the Rift Valley were initially chosen but later excluded for several factors, including geology, seismology and the steady source of water needed to cool the station’s critical components, explained Juma.
Kenyan officials chose to mirror South Korea and other nations, by targeting nearly all of its energy infrastructure vendors from foreign sources, said NuPEA Director of Nuclear Infrastructure Development, Eric Ohaga.
The Kenyan government could leverage the expertise of the better-equipped construction companies, resulting in a smoother and more timeous development period, he expanded.
A smaller 5MW reactor would be constructed to pair with the 1 000MW plant and the site would primarily be used as a research facility. This would allow Kenyan engineers to explore other uses for nuclear energy in areas like medicine, industry, food science and education.
CNNC will spend two years conducting a site characterisation study before construction begins in earnest. Early estimates have the project taking 8-10 years to complete.
The project could not start soon enough though. Kenyan analysts predict the nation will be in a significant energy deficit by the decade’s end, according to a digital publication, Construction Review Online.
The sub-Saharan country has a diverse energy mix that consists of 92.3% renewable energy sources, according to the 2021 Energy and Petroleum Statistics Report.
This line-up includes geothermal (43.6%), hydro (36.5%) and wind (11.5%), while only 6.5% of its energy mix was represented by thermal sources. The installation of nuclear power on the grid would ease Kenya’s energy reliability concerns as well.
While seasonal droughts and the absence of wind affect Kenya’s renewables sector, NuPEA expects the completed reactor will produce energy uninterrupted for two years.