The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has approved the development of a nuclear generation plant in Ghana. According to the energy ministry, the agency gave the green light early 2014. However, the local policies and legislation is still awaiting approval by Parliament. Ghana plans to develop a 700MW nuclear plant which will later rise to 1000MW.
Robert Sogbadji, in charge of nuclear and alternative energy at the ministry, has high hopes for the project. ‘Now we have rejuvenated the whole idea to go nuclear because it was envisaged that it would be so cheap that we would not even have to price electricity. We would write in our history books that once we used to ration power in this country. It will [also] spring new industries in steel technology, welding and various robotic roles. All these are spin offs from nuclear power,’ he said.
Ghana will begin to build its first nuclear power plant in the next 5 years. When fully operational in 2025, it will generate 1,000 megawatts of power – about 50 percent of the country’s current total installed capacity for electricity generation. However, recent nuclear disasters – such as the 2011 Fukushima incident, in which 3 nuclear reactors were damaged in an earthquake-triggered tsunami – have raised concerns about safety in general and more specifically in Africa.
Sogbadji, however, allayed such concerns, saying that Ghana is investing in safety protocols in line with international standards and will establish an independent regulatory body. ‘We are putting a bill before parliament for the nuclear regulatory authority is to be set up. They will be licensing every activity and every procedure on the road map for us to build the nuclear power plant,’ he said.
Benjamin Nyarko, director general of Ghana’s Atomic Energy Commission, said Ghana’s stability, economic growth and experience with nuclear research make it well positioned to be the second country in Africa after South Africa, to introduce nuclear to its energy grid safely.
‘Our research has gone on for 20 years now and we don’t have any problem. So as for safety, we are sure. And the new nuclear plants that are being manufactured now are being incorporated with very high safety magnets that will not have any serious effect if an accident occurs,’ said Nyarko. He added that Ghana’s nuclear power plant would be monitored by the IAEA to ensure compliance with international safety standards.
Although the move is contrary to the current global trend of nuclear power plants across the world shutting down as countries move to renewable energy sources, it reflects the high demand for energy in Sub-Saharan Africa to sustain economic growth and progress.