Kenya has recently signed a deal with China as part of the country’s plans to build a 1,000MW nuclear power station by 2025. The country aims to boost that to 4,000MW by 2033. From an energy perspective, this development seems to be a very exciting one. But I doubt if it is a good approach to energy sufficiency.
I have very strong reservations when it comes to nuclear power. It has the capability to generate far much more power but it is such a dangerous source of power. Of course, nuclear accidents are not common. But when they happen, the consequences are catastrophic.
I was in Japan in 2011, when the country experienced the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. The panic, the anguish, and the despair that happened there is something that I would never like to see in any African country. Up to now, some large areas of land close to the Fukushima Nuclear plants are uninhabitable and will remain so for decades.
Developed countries, which are better resourced in terms of technology, finance, and human skills, are phasing out nuclear power. These countries include Sweden, Italy, Belgium, and Germany. Countries such as Austria and Spain have introduced laws to stop the construction of new nuclear power stations.
In the aftermath of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, Germany announced plans to shut all nuclear reactors by 2022. The Japanese government has also abandoned its policy of promoting atomic power. Why is Kenya doing the opposite when they have not even exhausted other sources of electricity?
Some people are arguing that the Fukushima Nuclear disaster was due to the tsunami, which was triggered by an offshore earthquake and that Kenya would be fine because the country is not located in a subduction earthquake zone. This kind of thinking is very myopic.
The Japanese people never expected an earthquake of that magnitude to hit that region. But it happened! In the case of Kenya, the source of the problem might even be something completely different from what caused the Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Nuclear disasters. So personally, I do not support the development of nuclear power stations on the African continent.
The partnership with the Chinese is also suspicious. What we, Africans, forget is that China is here for business, not for humanitarian work! In every deal that they make, they think miles ahead of us. They analyse the deals and ascertain themselves of their long time net benefits before putting down their signatures.
On the other hand, we, Africans, are just excited with temporal benefits as long as they endear us to the electorate so that they should give us their votes. As someone once said, most African governments plan up to the next elections. We really need to wake up from this slumber!
Personally, I do not have confidence in the Chinese as far as safety, security, environmental issues are concerned. Just look at the safety and pollution problems in their industries at home. I am of the view that their quest for economic growth makes them skip crucial stages in their projects. When things backfire, they are hit in a hard way.
If they have such problems at their own backyard, will they really care to do a good job in Kenya? Won’t they easily cut corners in order to maximise profits? Does Kenya have experts who can objectively assess the nuclear power issues and offer unbiased guidance to the government?
In 2031 when the four nuclear power stations will be up and running, they will be generating about 19% of Kenya’s energy needs. Geothermal power will be the largest source of energy. Nuclear power will only come second. Can Kenya not obtain that 19% of its total power from other sources? The solar technology is improving every year. It could be possible that the efficiency of solar panels will have improved tremendously at that time.
Based on the aforementioned facts, I completely support the Kenyan MP who is moving a motion against nuclear power in parliament. I also agree with those Kenyans who are complaining that the citizens need to be consulted in order to find out their views about this development.
Some online media in Kenya are saying that they can’t rely on a few technocrats on such a sensitive and controversial issue. They are even calling for a national referendum to address this issue and I totally agree with them.