The Ministry of Energy says Ghana is on track in pursuing its programme to harness nuclear energy as a long term energy alternative.
The country’s energy resource assessment indicates the present energy sources of hydro, thermal, gas, solar and wind will not be enough to meet the total energy requirements in the future.
Ghana is currently generating almost 5,000megawatts of electricity but available capacity hovers around 2,000megawatts.
Nuclear energy is sourced to guarantee the base load in electricity generation without subject to water in the dam, the supply of gas to the plant, or availability of sun for solar.
“When you bring in nuclear energy, it is cheaper; it is more reliable because it is about 95per cent available all through the year and it stays in for 60 years and more,” says Dr. Robert Sogbadji, Coordinator of the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme.
Safety, cost concerns
People have raised safety as a major concern in nuclear power development.
Chemical engineer, Prof. Ayo Kuyo, said such threats are still real, hence the need to secure nuclear and radioactive materials from falling into wrong hands.
“That threat is still real, so we need to secure these [nuclear and radioactive] materials in such a way that such the situation never comes up again,” he noted.
Dr. Sogbadji describes nuclear as the most regulated sector in the energy industry, with strict oversight by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Despite the huge cost of developing a nuclear plant; with an initial investment of about 6 billion dollars per 1,000 megawatts, Dr. Sogbadji said there are some financial models available to support Ghana to build the plants.
“It’s all about government’s commitment; once we are committed, there are various financial institutions and vendors who are prepared to fund about 80 to 90 percent of the plant just for electricity to be available through nuclear and it is cheap electricity,” he stated.
Ghana’s nuclear power programme so far
The Ministry of Energy started its nuclear energy programme in 2005 and in 2012, the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Organization was formed to steer affairs of planning towards the integration of nuclear power into the energy mix.
In 2016, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority was constituted to regulate all processes and procedures in nuclear integration.
Ghana is currently at the phase one – planning – in building its nuclear plant. Phase two will involve plan implementation and the last phase is construction of the plant.
In April 2017, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) completed assessment of the country’s first phase activities. Among recommendations is to undertake activities for sitting of the plant to pave way for the second phase.
The programme is currently run by the Ministry of Energy in collaboration with other 35 agencies. An owner-operator is expected to take control of the programme when the second phase takes off by the first quarter of 2018.
Dr. Sogbadji is confident nuclear will be part of the country’s energy mix in the next decade – between 2027 and 2030.
Stakeholder engagements on safety
The Department of Chemical Engineering of the Kumasi Technical University (KsTU), the Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Ghana (NRAG) and the School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences, Legon, have been holding stakeholder’ engagements on nuclear security and safety.
Prof. Osei-Wusu Achaw, Head of Chemical Engineering at the Kumasi Technical University, said such engagements are critical to allay the phobia associated with the exploitation of nuclear power.
“What we really need is an energy source that we can always depend on and nuclear is one of such source,” he said.
The workshop seeks to educate media practitioners and decision makers on security issues surrounding the application of nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy is growing globally with nearly 10 GW of new nuclear capacity supplying electricity in 2015 – more than double the average capacity connected each year in the previous decade.
By Kofi Adu Domfeh|TV3|3news.com|Ghana