Akufo-Addo must actualise Ghana’s nuclear dream

After decades of stop-start journeys to nuclear, Egypt last month announced that it had sealed a $700 million deal with USA-based General Electric (GE) to supply turbine and generator units for the country’s maiden Nuclear Power Plant (NPP).

Like Ghana, that country’s civilian nuclear programme suffered a tortuous journey until around 2012 when it was meaningfully revived and now being guided towards fruition.

By that, Egypt has successfully shaken off the monstrous lack of political will around nuclear programmes in Africa and is now on its way to generating 1,200 megawatts of electricity from the resource in 2026. It aims to quadruple the figure to 4,800MW by 2029.

The country’s momentous revitalisation of its once shelved nuclear programme was occasioned by familiar factors: Similar to Ghana, Egypt is experiencing consistent strong growth in population in the midst of an expanding economy.

To sustain the economic growth and feed the nation, the country requires sustainable and affordable energy. That is where nuclear energy (with its enchanting benefits listed below) came in handy.

The USA-based GE said in a statement that Egypt’s maiden nuclear plant, the El Dabaa will provide electricity for four million people, equivalent to the population of Accra.

Elsewhere, Zambia, Kenya and Uganda are also aiming to tap the potential of nuclear to supplement traditional power sources and fast track their industrialisation drives. Africa is thus shaking off the long-held negative perceptions around nuclear and warming up to it.

Here in Ghana the journey to nuclear is still at a snail pace. Over the past five decades, the country has taken one step forward and two steps backward in the match towards adding nuclear power to its energy mix.

After the nuclear dream was rejuvenated in 2006, thanks to the debilitating energy crisis at the time, it was again abandoned until 2013 when, another round of energy crisis pricked our conscience to start thinking nuclear.

Since then, however, the momentum has been sustained, with intergovernmental agreements now signed with China and Russia.

This is positive. However, the pace still does not excite.

Despite rekindling our nuclear programme the same year that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) revived its, Abu Dhabi is currently constructing four plants at a time Ghana does not know where its maiden plant will be sited. We have not also chosen a vendor country – the country that will partner us to establish and maintain the plant – nor decided on the financial model to be used. The owner operator – the state-owned enterprise to own and operate the NPP – is also still not established.

Given that these are critical stages of a nuclear programme, their absence at the moment leaves much to be desired. It begs the question if there is urgency and commitment around our nuclear programme.

Benefits of nuclear

This is in spite of frightening signs that traditional energy sources are plateauing in the midst of rising demand. Data from the Ministry of Energy show that national supply of electricity has shifted significantly from hydro to thermal energy, fueled by natural gas, diesel and crude oil.

The ministry estimates that internal fuel sources will decline by 2027, making it difficult for the country to fuel its thermal plants.

With climate change drying up rivers and also making coal a bad option, one wonders how Ghana intends to sustain supply to help feed industries and light up new homes.
The inconsistent nature of renewable energy sources (wind and solar) also means that they cannot be relied upon for baseloads – 24-hour supply.

This makes nuclear a preferred option. Its cost efficient and affordable nature makes it more endearing to use.

Despite the capital-intensive nature at the initial stages (one plant cost between $5 billion to $8 billion from start to finish), experts concur that nuclear energy cost less in the long run compared to other sources.

The World Nuclear Association estimates that unlike thermal energy sources that cost around 12 US cents per kilowatt (KW), nuclear power cost six cents per KW. This makes it a smarter option for a developing country like Ghana in need of affordable but reliable electricity to drive growth and lift millions out of poverty.

Ghana’s case is even peculiar: With power shortages still lurking at a time President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has audaciously pledged to establish a factory each in the 216 districts (using the old figure) and build a Ghana beyond aid, the country needs to be foresighted to help forestall a repeat of the energy crisis the country has experienced at different times since independence.

Hasten with caution
Fortunately, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) have now reached a consensus on the need to go nuclear after years of indifference.

This places President Akufo-Addo in a unique position to take Ghana there. To do so, however, he must quicken the process by setting clear timelines for implementing agencies.
Despite its positives, nuclear plants take time to construct. One plant could take up to six years to complete and with the peculiar nature of state-sponsored projects in Ghana, a period of 10 years can be envisaged.

As traditional energy sources dwindle from 2027 onwards, credible alternatives will be needed; else the country is forced to rely on emergency alternatives, which are often expensive. The prices of the emergency power agreements signed between 2014 and 2016 in response to the crisis, vis-à-vis those signed during periods of power stability speak volumes.

Financing models
Aside electricity, NPPs open an industry in science and technology, especially in the area of health. They are also avenues for job creation.

Yet, critics of nuclear often point to its capital-intensive nature as the reason why developing countries must shy away from it. Fortunately, this is flawed.
Like every commercial project, nuclear plants are investments that when properly structured, will attract investors.

Just like the Akosombo Dam, the government could devise a financing model that will allow the vendor country to build, operate and transfer. After the loan has been repaid and the facility transferred to Ghana, the plant becomes ours forever, similar to the Akosombo and Bui Dams.

Public opinion
While I urge the President to fast-track the nuclear dream, it is instructive to mention that the peculiar nature of the resource means that any financial malpractice around it will neutralise the gains and easily whip-up public anger against it.

Recent happenings in South Africa and the emotions that allegations of corruption around new nuclear deals arose attest to this.

That not withstanding, President Akufo-Addo holds a golden opportunity to sign Ghana off to nuclear. That will be an enduring legacy he will cherish forever. It will open a new chapter in Ghana’s desire to industrialise. It will also represent a stronger commitment to actualising his ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’ agenda.

Beyond being a cheaper and affordable source, excess power from nuclear can be fed into the West Africa Power Pool for export. That means extra income from a resource we used more than 60 years dreaming about.


Maiden LOC Dish Conversion Worksop Meeting Held in Accra

The first meeting of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the workshop on conversion of ex-telecommunication earth station antennas into functional radio telescopes was held in Accra.

The Workshop will be hosted by GSSTI in collaboration with the Development through Radio Astronomy Global Network with support from the Global Challenges Research Fund, United Kingdom. It is scheduled to take place at the AH Hotel, East Legon, Accra-Ghana, during 20th– 26thJanuary 2019.

The focus of the workshop will be to share engineering expertise in antenna conversions, telescope controls and receiver systems with emphasis on how the skills involved can be transferred to the local population for socio-economic benefits. A team of experts that led the conversions of ex-telecommunication antennas in Ghana, Latvia, Australia, Japan and Peru, will be the main speakers at the Workshop.

Mr. Eric Aggrey, a member of the LOC disclosed that Ghana is the second country in Africa to convert such a disused telecommunication dish into a radio telescope for scientific (astronomical) research, training, education and astro-tourism purposes.

Speaking at the meeting, the chairman of the LOC, Dr. Bernard Duah Asabere, said this workshop will place Ghana amongst the elite in the world of astronomy and related technology transfers for socio-economic gains.

He encouraged members of the team to work hard and in unity to make the program a success to lift the flags of GSSTI, GAEC and Ghana higher.


Ghana’s nuclear power agenda on course- Phase II of project scheduled for Q1 2019

Ghana’s agenda to integrate nuclear power into its power generation mix is progressing steadily with the Ministry of Energy setting a target to fully activate the second phase of the project by the end of the first quarter of next year.

The first phase, which was primarily about making the decision to use nuclear power and meeting all the 19 infrastructural needs outlined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was fully addressed by the country as at April 2017.

The second phase, which includes implementation of the decisions made in phase one, is said to be progressing steadily, although it was yet to be fully activated.

The Deputy Director, Nuclear and Alternative Energy at Ministry of Energy, Dr Robert Bright Mawuko Sogbadji, made this known during an interaction with selected journalists in Accra on September 18 under the auspices of the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom).

He said the nuclear integration roadmap provided a timeline of between 2027 and 2030 to roll out nuclear and this has been incorporated into how the various phases would be rolled out.

“We were to start phase two by mid of this year, but what delayed was the establishment of the project office because you need the project office for the implementation of the phase two. Once it has been established, we can begin phase two.”

“By the end of first quarter next year, we should be beginning phase two. Phase two is the implementation of whatever we did in phase one. When you take phase one and we are looking at planning for security for instance, phase two will look at what exactly what we will do and how to implement that plan,” he said.

He explained that although Ghana had fulfilled some of the requirements, including the establishment a nuclear regulatory authority, more feasibility studies are being conducted to ensure a smooth transition.

He said the phase two will take between three to four years, while the phase three which will look at the construction of the plants will take between five and six years.

Candidate sites

Dr Sogbadji said the project office overseeing the nuclear rollout in Ghana comprised the Volta River Authority (VRA), the Bui Power Authority and the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) with an oversight responsibility by the Ministry of Energy. The project office is being hosted by the Bui Power Authority.

He said there were currently candidate sites for the nuclear power production, out of which the country will settle on four. As a result, the project office has been collecting data on these sites in the past months.

“Last month, the project office went to the field to add more data to the candidate sites. We did some preliminary studies two years ago to have candidate areas so the team went on the field to do extra work so that at least we can zoom in on four candidate sites.

“So far we have about eight which we are still trying to zoom in to four,” he said.


Senegal and France ink nuclear framework partnership agreement

The Senegalese Ministry of Higher Education has entered into an agreement with the French National Institute for Nuclear Science and Technology – Institut National des Sciences et Techniques Nucléaires, INSTN – to cooperate in establishing a centre of excellence in nuclear science and technology in the West African country, writes wnn. The nuclear cooperation agreement was signed by the director of INSTN Philippe Corréa for France and the minister of higher education, research and innovation Mary Teuw Niane for Senegal.

The agreement to collaborate on the nuclear science and technology project is anchored on three major objectives, reports wnn. First, it opens the peaceful atomic energy transfer door for France to support Senegal in the creation of an African Centre of Excellence in Nuclear Physics in close collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Second, it boosts Franco-Senegal’s bilateral nuclear science and technology cooperation and facilitates Senegal’s participation in the domestic development of teaching capability on a research reactor or a virtual reality teaching reactor. Third, and finally, the agreement seeks to support the development of training courses focused on nuclear health applications, particularly in the fight against cancer using external beam radiotherapy equipment.

The agreement has the potential benefit of contributing to human and institutional capacity building of the nuclear sector workforce in Senegal. To that end, the executive phase of the agreement could go down the line to create a distance learning platform for the training of Senegalese experts and students in nuclear science and technology. Through the remote education component, France could transfer knowledge and share best practices to promote national development and improve citizen wellbeing using nuclear applications in accordance with IAEA regulations.

Currently, the electricity supply in Senegal is produced from fossil fuels mainly. In early 2010, the government announced it was considering a nuclear power plant by about 2020. The decision was part of the government’s energy policy to diversify power generation sources in the country and to integrate Senegalese grid system with the West African Power Pool. In 2010, the energy minister was keen to establish an African Commission for Nuclear Energy with headquarters in Dakar, according to wnn. In the same year, France offered technical assistance in the nuclear field. A year later, the Senegalese president said that he had canceled plans for nuclear power. At the end of 2017, domestic electricity demand was only 550 MWe but is projected to grow at 7% per year.

The INSTN is a higher education institution founded in 1956 as part of the Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) – le Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA). To that end, INSTN benefits from an exceptional research and development environment in the nuclear energy sector, as well as applications in the fields of health and radiation protection.

Eastern Chiefs Applaud Ghana’s Nuclear Power Efforts

The Eastern Regional house of Chiefs has applauded the progress made by the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Organization (GNPPO) at meeting the objective of including nuclear power into Ghana’s electricity generation mix.

This was expressed when the Chiefs and the Regional Minister Hon. Eric Kwakye Darffour toured the Exhibition stand mounted by the Nuclear Power Institute (NPI) of the GNPPO at the Koforidua Jackson park, as part of activities to commemorate the maiden ‘Eastern Star Awards and Paramountcy Trade Expo’.

The four days event that was put together by the Eastern Regional House of Chiefs, in collaboration with the Eastern Regional Coordinating Council and Onua 95.1fm, is to showcase the massive investment potential of the Eastern Region and also award natives and business entities that have brought notable development and job opportunities to the region.

The Gyasehene of Obo Kwahu, Nana Dr. Okra Baadu III who spoke in an interview was optimistic the vision of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah would be reactivated. He acknowledged the role of Nuclear power in socioeconomic development. According to him, China’s industrial transformation and rapid economic development is partly dependent on nuclear power.

He advised Ghanaians to adopt a high level of maintenance culture in order to meet the high standards required in the nuclear industry and to jealously guard the nuclear power plant after its commissioning. He also called on fellow Chiefs in other regions to rally support for the Nuclear Power Programme since it is one of the obvious paths to meeting the industrialization agenda of the country.

The Manager of the Public Relations and Information Centre of NPI, Mr. Elikem Kwaku Ahialey, who took the opportunity to brief the Regional Minister and the Chiefs on Ghana’s nuclear journey and the basic working principle of nuclear power plant, expressed joy at the opportunity to engage Easterners during the Exhibition.

He disclosed that, the nuclear power programme is about to fully enter its second phase even though some second phase requirements have already be achieved. “We are fortunate for the opportunity to meet and engage some chiefs, students, traders and other class of people in society on issues of nuclear power and Ghana’s nuclear power programme”, he added.

He commended the Chiefs and people of the Eastern Region for the initiative to showcase the potential of the Region and finally called on Ghanaians to remain positive and optimistic towards the nuclear power programme since it will, among many other benefits, be a catalyst for facilitating Ghana’s aspiration of becoming economically self sufficient.

By: Thykingdom Kudesey / Office of Corporate and Public Affairs (OCPA) – GAEC