The World Makes a Pivot to Nuclear

In the past year, local environmentalists scored a major win after the proposed 1050MW Lamu Coal Plant construction was halted by the National Environmental Tribunal. This was after ruling that the necessary authorities had failed to do a thorough environmental assessment. According to the project’s critics, the $2 billion power station was claimed to increase the region’s greenhouse gas emissions by 700%. This would have affected the tourist hotspot which is already marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kenya has been on the frontline of achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as dictated within the Vision 2030 programme to combat fossil fuels as part of the global climate action. As remarked by the president during his 2019 State of the Nation address, Sustainable Development is a constitutional imperative and one of the National Values.

The greatest world challenge in this 21st century is how to develop and developing sustainable energy resources. As African population rises, the 48M+ Kenyans require energy access to enable the rapid economic development in light of the Big 4 Agenda.

Kenya has been a pioneer in the use of renewable energy with the country adopting green energy as 85% of energy coming from renewable resources further diversification of the national energy mix will provide reliable and cost-effective electricity that meets current and future demand.

A 2018 study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) titled “Future of Nuclear Energy in a Carbon-Constrained World” showed that without potential contribution of nuclear, the cost of achieving deep decarbonization targets will increase significantly. The significant share of nuclear in the national energy mix also helps to provide smaller energy tariffs and make energy available for all the people. The Study showed that by 2060, energy costs will be twice lower in the countries where share of nuclear in the energy mix achieve 50-60%, than in the countries with smaller nuclear share.

African nations have started considerations to the nuclear route: 30 countries including Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, Ghana, Rwanda and Uganda are either planning or starting nuclear power programmes, and a further 20 or so countries have at some point expressed their interest.

Not only are the newcomers going nuclear but also those countries that have already established nuclear facilities and then adopted antinuclear policy, make a pivot to nuclear. In 2019, The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison proposed reintroduction of nuclear production, although after it was banned in 1998. He however stated he would consider lifting the ban if research proved it could be done on a commercial basis and brings power prices down.

Even in Europe, where European Union’s renewable energy directive actively discriminates against nuclear in favor of solar and wind, pro-nuclear voices are raising up. In 2017, TenneT TSO, a transmission network operator, reported 40% rise in costs related to renewable energy issues in its Germany operations. These costs came from having to make emergency interventions to stabilize the national electricity grid whenever wind and solar installations demonstrated some of their trademark intermittency. Interventions involved calling on coal, gas and nuclear plants to generate power when renewables failed to meet demand. No wonder that pro-nuclear Europeans are proposing a petition drive to change the discriminatory directive. Some officials join the community spirit. For example, French president Emmanuel Macron, spoke out favorably for nuclear saying he would not rule out France building new nuclear reactors.

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