Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, who have been in the country for a week, on Thursday approved Kenya’s application for its first nuclear power station.
The 35,000MW facility is to be built at a cost of Sh950 billion on a 200-acre plot in the Athi Plains, about 50km from Nairobi, and is expected to satisfy all of Kenya’s energy needs until 2040.
The formal agreement is expected to be signed between the IAEA and the government in the next two weeks.
Already the government is in talks with the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), which will supervise the construction and train technicians and other experts to run the plant.
UKAEA executive director, Prof Attaboy Fakes, flies in next week for consultations with the government committee in charge of the project, chaired by Gender Minister Esther Murugi.
Officials from the Nairobi Metropolitan ministry under which the projects falls told the Nation that the construction of the plant will start early next month and is expected to be completed by September 2012.
“We are hitting the ground running, we have brought in top nuclear engineers from Europe and Asia for the construction work beginning May,” said a top ministry official who declined to be named because she is not the spokesperson.
A 50km shaft will be dug into the ground at Oborimo, Urongo in Kisii Central District to store the nuclear waste.
The management of radioactive waste is one of the greatest problems of nuclear energy. It is stored until such a time in the future when the technology will exist to dispose of it.
Once complete, the nuclear power plant is expected to provide 90 per cent of the country’s electricity needs, making Kenya the world’s biggest consumer of nuclear energy ahead of France which derives 80 per cent of its electricity from nuclear sources and the United States, which obtains only 19 per cent of its electricity from the same.
A debate has been raging globally about the safety of nuclear energy in the wake of the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last month, destroying nuclear reactors at the Fukushima power plant and triggering radiation fears.
The inspectors are expected to certify that Kenya has adhered to all the international conventions on peaceful use of nuclear technology that it has ratified, the official said.
The conventions include the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, IAEA Additional Protocol, Small Quantities Protocol and Comprehensive Safety Agreement.
The world’s chief nuclear inspector, Mr Yukiya Amano was expected in the country on Thursday to attend a United Nations meeting, and possibly for the signing of the agreement with Kenya.
Currently, Kenya has an established power capacity of only 1,296MW. Power consumption is growing at 8 per cent a year and is expected to reach 15,000MW by 2030.
But with the nuclear facility, Kenya will have so much power that it will supply for free to industry.