Kenya is preparing to build its first nuclear power plant in 2027. The country wants to diversify its sources of energy to meet increasing demand and reduce carbon emissions.
The Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA), led by Acting CEO Justus Wabuyabo, intends to invite international bids for the construction of the nuclear plant, which will be located in either Kilifi or Kwale counties. This plan follows the approval by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2021.
According to Mr. Wabuyabo, the bidding process will take place between 2026 and 2027, with construction expected to start in 2027. The construction phase is estimated to last six to ten years, aiming for the commissioning of the first plant by 2034-35. To determine the final site, detailed scientific studies, including seismic tests as required by IAEA, will be conducted in Kilifi and Kwale.
The nuclear power plant is projected to have a capacity of 1,000 Megawatts (MW). If successful, it will significantly contribute to Kenya’s electricity supply and reduce reliance on polluting thermal plants.
Kenya’s decision to pursue nuclear power is driven by the expected growth in electricity demand as the country aims to become a middle-income economy by 2030. Currently, geothermal energy is the largest source of electricity, accounting for 45.21 percent, followed by hydro (21.05 percent), wind (16.08 percent), and solar (3.92 percent).
In addition to the nuclear plant’s construction cost, Kenya will need to upgrade its electricity transmission network to ensure reliable power supply to the nuclear facilities. A joint study by NuPEA and the SGS consortium highlights the need for significant enhancements in the current electricity grid, considering the safety requirements for nuclear plants and their substantial size.
As of now, South Africa is the only African country with a commercial nuclear plant, contributing five percent of its electricity. In contrast, nuclear power accounts for 47 percent of electricity generation in the United States.
Kenya has been actively working towards its nuclear energy ambitions by sending numerous students abroad to gain expertise in nuclear energy-related fields, reducing its reliance on foreign labor for future nuclear projects.