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

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