Ghana goes nuclear; 2 Plants in six years

After more than five decades of back and forth movements on the production of energy from nuclear sources, Ghana is now inching closer to establishing two of its first nuclear power plants to augment national power supply from hydro, thermal and solar sources.

Prof. Benjamin T. B. Nyarko, Director General, Ghana Atomic Energy Commission

The Ministry of Energy and the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), which are coordinating activities towards realising the vision, estimate that the first two plants could be operational in the next five to six years, with the capacity to produce some 2,400 megawatts (MW) of electricity.

Each nuclear power plant would cost between US$5 and US$6 billion to establish, Professor Benjamin J. B. Nyarko, the Director General (DG) of the GAEC, and Dr Robert Sogbadji, the Deputy Director in charge of Nuclear and Alternative Energy at the Ministry of Energy, told the Daily Graphic in separate interviews in Sochi in Russia yesterday.

Ghanaian delegation

Prof. Nyarko and Dr Sogbadji spoke to the Daily Graphic after the opening ceremony of this year’s ATOMEXPO International Forum in Sochi.

Started in 2008, the annual event is organised by the State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM) of Russia and brings together global experts and business executives with interest in nuclear and renewal energy.


On the theme: “Global partnerships – Joint success”, this year’s event is the 10th in the series, bringing together over 600 delegates from 68 countries.

Ghana’s delegation to the three-day conference is led by Mr William Owuraku, a Deputy Minister of Energy in charge of Power.

Prof. Nyarko and Dr Sogbadji explained that one important step in the country’s march towards producing energy from nuclear sources was the selection of a vendor country, which was also nearing completion.

For his part, Dr Sogbadji, who is also the Coordinator of the Ghana Nuclear Energy Programme, said after receiving dozens of proposals from nuclear vending countries around the world, the government had now zeroed in on China and Russia, as it continued the search for a suitable partner to help build the country’s first nuclear power plants.

He said a final decision on the vendor country was expected to be announced by the first quarter of next year, after which that country would then partner the government to start the construction of two plants by 2023.

The selected country is to, among other things, supply the nuclear reactors and other infrastructure needed to establish the two power plants.

Owner operator

The choice of a vendor country is an important milestone in Ghana’s march towards generating power from nuclear sources.

Despite commencing the process in the 1960s, the desire to produce energy from nuclear sources stalled over the years, largely due to lack of political commitment arising mainly from the negative publicity associated with nuclear energy around the world.

In recent years, however, significant progress has been made towards establishing the first plant.

Dr Sogbadji said the ministry was on the final lap of the first stage of its road map on nuclear energy production.

He explained that one key step in that lap was the choice of the vendor country, which had been ongoing for some time now.

He said although the country had received proposals from Japan, North and South Korea, among others, it had basically settled on Russia and China for strategic reasons.

“We are looking forward to the two countries to give us a comprehensive proposal, and then we can make a decision. For a newcomer country, you need a strategic partner to walk with and we do not want a project but a programme leading to a project,” he said.

“So the one who gives a good financial proposal and a good programme will be the one to choose. Also, these decisions are always more inter-governmental and so we the technical people and those on the ground may advise, but the sole decision will be based on a number of factors,” he added.

Owner operator

Explaining further, Prof. Nyarko said beyond the technical qualifications, the choice of a vendor country would be based on bilateral relationships and financing options.

“We are doing technology assessment and reactor type does not differ much. However, the government may decide on the financing option of each country or the bilateral relationship between the vendor country and Ghana,” he said.

Beyond choosing the vendor country, he said, one key step in the final lap of the first stage was the setting up or selection of an owner operator – a state enterprise that would own and operate the nuclear plants.

He said a memo was currently being prepared for the Cabinet to make the decision, after which the entity would then partner the vendor country to develop and operate the plant.

It is understood that the government is to choose between the Bui Power Authority (BPA) and the Volta River Authority (VRA) or set up an entirely new company to take up the role of owner operator.

Human resource

While awaiting the choice of the owner operator, Prof. Nyarko said, the GAEC had already developed the needed human expertise which would be offloaded to the owner operator after it had been established or chosen.

Ghana’s nuclear energy programme is being supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

A successful generation of energy from nuclear sources will make Ghana the second country on the continent, after South Africa, to generate energy from that source.

Ghana’s first attempt at getting the international buy-in to generate power from nuclear energy started in the 1960s but was shelved following the overthrow of the government of Dr Kwame Nkrumah in 1966.

The move was, however, renewed in 2006 when the Cabinet adopted a proposal for Ghana to go nuclear. That led to the resumption of discussions between the GAEC and the Ministry of Energy, on one side, and the IAEA, on the other, on how the country should proceed to produce and commercialise nuclear energy.

Nuclear currently accounts for 11 per cent of the global energy supply.

Author: Maxwell Akalaare Adombila | Graphic Online

Devt partners paid $20m to repatriate Ghana’s uranium to China

The Director General (DG) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), Prof. Benjamin J. B. Nyarko, has revealed that it cost the country more than $20 million to convert the Ghana Research Reactor-1 (GHARR-1) from highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low enriched uranium (LEU) before repatriating the spent fuel to China.

The HEU, within a TUK/145/C MNSR package, is loaded on a trailer during its journey (Image: IAEA – Sandor Miklos Tozser)

But instead of Ghana bearing that cost, Prof. Nyarko said the United States of America (USA) took up the cost, under the American government’s Global Threats Reduction Initiative with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in an effort to remove the use of weapon grade uranium from civilian use.

The conversion involved reducing the uranium content in the GHARR-1 from 90 per cent uranium 235, which is a weapon grade, to 13 per cent

Given that the conversion and repatriation process was a big relief to the country, the DG of the GAEC told the Graphic Business in Sochi in Russia that it was “untrue” that some sections of the general public intimated that the country had by passed other countries “to cheaply sell its highly enriched uranium to China”.

“It is the US government and the IAEA that paid for the cost of the repatriation. The whole process, including bringing in the low-enriched uranium to be loaded into the reactor and everything, was a little above $20 million,” he said at Sochi, where he is attending the 2018 ATOMEXPO.

He explained that the repatriation was done last year, bringing to an end a process that started in 2005 to help convert Ghana’s research reactor which was operated for more than 20 years with enriched  uranium 235 to below 20 per cent.


Following the conversion, the GHARR-1 is now used for research and education purposes.

Provide answers

In September last year, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo announced at the General Assembly of the United Nations that Ghana, through its commitment to international peace, had returned its highly enriched uranium reactor to China.

“Africa and indeed, Ghana, remain committed to remaining a nuclear weapons-free continent. Three weeks ago, highly enriched uranium was flown out of Ghana back to China, signalling the end of the removal of all such material from the country,” he said at the time.

The announcement, however, generated discussion among a section of the public, with the Minority in Parliament demanding that the President explain why he took such a decision.

While describing such concerns as misplaced, Prof. Nyarko, who is also a Professor of Applied Nuclear Physics at the School of Nuclear and Allied Science (SNAS) at the University of Ghana, Legon, said those comments were unfortunate and a worry to the state.

“Sometimes when some of us hear these kinds of things, we start to worry because it is untrue and it made people ridicule us.

“If I have somebody who will take the core (the spent fuel) for fuel, I will thank my God because it is radioactive and dangerous. So if it was easy to do, we could have just gone somewhere, dig a hole and bury the spent fuel and take the $20 million that the Americans and the IAEA spent into something else,” he said.

“We have to pay for it; even with the storage in China, Americans have to pay for it. So if somebody is saying that you are selling spent fuel, then it is unfortunate because who will buy your waste?” he asked.

He said the country did well by including a spent fuel return clause in the  contract with China in 1992, allowing the repatriation of the spent fuel to China.

“Otherwise, every spent fuel should be managed by the host country, which would have been Ghana, and storage of spent fuel is very expensive.

“If somebody says that we have sold the core, that is not true; it is not fresh uranium that you can sell,” he stressed.

Leading example

The National Nuclear Research Institute (NNRI), a division of the  GAEC received the GHARR-1 from China in 1994 to be used for research purposes.

However, with 90 per cent enriched uranium, it was feared that the device could be diverted into non-peaceful activities.

As a result, the IAEA partnered the GAEC to form a collaborative research project and later a working group to help convert the uranium content.

Prof. Nyarko said the conclusion of the process in 2017 made Ghana the first country outside China to successfully convert Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) to LEU.

“It is one of the successes because we have taken the lead,” he said.

He added that the conversion was done in such a way that it would not affect the reactor safety and operation.

 

Author: Maxwell Akalaare Adombila | Graphic Online

GHANA IS DEVELOPING THE EXPERTISE TO MANAGE WASTE FROM NUCLEAR POWER PLANT OPERATIONS – (GAEC)

The Manager in charge of the Radioactive Waste Management Centre (RWMC), of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), Dr. Eric Tetteh Glover, has disclosed that his outfit is developing the expertise to handle waste generated from nuclear power.

The RWMC which falls directly under the Radiation Protection Institute of GAEC has the mandate to secure and manage all radioactive waste materials generated in Ghana in order to protect human health and the environment from the hazards associated with these materials.

The centre is the only authorized unit for safe and sustainable management of radioactive waste in the country.

Speaking to Dr. Glover in an interview, he disclosed that, there has not been a single question raised against radioactive waste management in Ghana as far as his outfit is concerned.

According to him, his centre has been very instrumental with the collection and transportation of disused radioactive sources from industries, characterization and conditioning of radioactive sources and also storage of collected radioactive waste materials.

Alluding to this fact, he was confident that the RWMC will have no challenge should Ghana’s Nuclear Power Programme come into full force. Aside having the expertise GAEC is developing the infrastructure facilities and other needed recourses to meet the demands.

“Nuclear waste unlike domestic waste, does not require much space for storage since the waste generated over a period of time is mostly small in quantity”, he said.

Responding to question on the dangers involved in transporting radioactive waste materials to its storage base, Dr. Glover revealed that, the sources are concealed in a special container that prevents emission of radiation into the atmosphere. “However it is regulated”, he added.

He urged industries and hospitals that use equipment with radioactive sources like the X-ray machine and nuclear moisture/density gauges to ensure that all cases of malfunction are immediately reported to avoid radiation exposure.

He further called on Ghanaians to maintain the trust in the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission for radiation safety.

GAEC Institutes Board Members Sworn into Office

A total of 49 members were inaugurated to serve on the Institutional Boards of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) on October 25, 2017 at the SNAS conference room.

The Institutes include, the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI), National Nuclear Research Institute (NNRI), Nuclear Power Institute (NPI), Radiation Protection Institute (RPI), Radiological and Medical Sciences Research Institute (RAMSRI), Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute (GSSTI) and the Graduate School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences (SNAS).

Speaking at the swearing-in ceremony, the Board Chair of GAEC, Dr. Kweku Anning, charged the Institute Board members to do due diligence to their responsibilities.

He advised that their role is not to frustrate the growth and progress of the Commission but to make fruitful decisions that will promote development and smooth running of the Institutes and GAEC as a whole.

Speaking on behalf of all the instructional board members, Prof. Amoasi was thankful to the GAEC Board for the appointment. He pledged the commitment of all members to ensure the progress of activities of all GAEC Institutes for sustainable development in Ghana.

Prof. Amoasi finally called for unity among the members and added that staying united will influence positive decisions.

Looming NORM Management Crisis to Hit Ghana – RPI Warns

Ghana has been warned against a looming Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORMs) management crisis in the near future if pragmatic steps are not taken to control the situation.

The Radiation Protection Institute (RPI) under the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) made this revelation.

Speaking in an interview with the Center Manager of the Food and Environmental Monitoring Centre of RPI, Dr. Oscar Adukpo disclosed that the situation has affected some oil producing countries including Ghana’s West African neighbor Nigeria.

NORMs, also known as, Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials are typically produced from the debris of oil extraction and mining activities.

According to Dr. Adukpo, the risk is more prevalent in the oil-producing sector than the mining sector. Explaining how the situation degenerates, he said that cleaning of the Scale; (a pipe trough which crude is extracted from the oil well) is a mandatory procedure that must be observed after a period of oil extraction. “When this waste is collected from the scale, storage and deposal becomes a difficult situation to deal with”, he added.

He further explained that unlike the mining sector that may reclaim mined sites over a relatively shorter period of time, oil wells are engaged for decades and hence making it difficult to dump NORM waste. “ The waste become sizable overtime and is unbearable”, he lamented.

Stressing on the dangers it poses on public health, Dr. Adukpo pointed out that poor NORM waste management practices, may cause them to end up in streams and other water bodies, contaminating them with radioactive substances in the process. This he said affects aquatic creatures (Fishes, etc) and goes ahead into food crops if contaminated water is used to irrigate farmlands. “The underground water is also affected since surface water goes deep into the ground to recharge underground water and in effect, the boreholes within that region will be affected.

He lamented that; this can have servere health implications on the general public if borehole water is used for domestic activities (cooking, drinking, etc) and on commercial bases (Sachet water production, etc)

He disclosed that, Ghana is yet to manage NORM waste for the first time from the oil sector, but has little or no capacity in that regard.

According to him, the RPI under GAEC is able to do NORM measurement and Analysis but will require extra facilities to be able to clean oil scales and manage NORM waste.

He called on government to consider developing strategies to manage NORM waste to avoid all manner of dangers the public will be exposed to, due to poor management of NORMs.