Talk around nuclear power is in the news everyday as the crisis at Japan’s Fukushima plant continues to unfold. But today, another country is in the news not for a crisis, but for its intentions to harness the power for itself.
Ghana’s government has declared their intention to bring nuclear power to the country by 2018. Professor Edward Akaho, Director General of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission disclosed the country’s goal to explore nuclear energy for electricity generation.
The West-Africa country’s exploration into nuclear energy stems most recently from its energy crisis in 2007. Ghana’s then President John Agyekum Kufuor commissioned the Nuclear Power Committee to look into the feasibility of including nuclear energy into its power generation planning.
Reporting the Committee’s results, Professor Akaho said that Ghana will need to invest $1.5 billion in order to generate 1,000megawatts of nuclear electricity. While the investment comes at a high cost, Akaho says that the operational cost of maintaining the plant would be low. Asked whether he thought the country’s goal is possible, the Professor told Ghana’s Public Agenda:
“If there is political will, then strategies can be developed to meet the task.”
The plan has been met with some skepticism within Ghana’s public forum, with many saying the governments’ slack response to emergencies has not shown it has the capacity to safety maintain a nuclear plant. Atomic Energy Agents from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be visiting the country soon to discuss the location and characteristics of Ghana’s proposed plant.
Ghana’s bid for nuclear power comes after Nigeria’s announcement of its intentions to pursue the same. However, for Nigeria (which recently delayed its elections) its internal political instability is proving the undermining factor in the country’s bid. Even though it is one of the few sub-Saharan countries able to afford the initial investment needed, Nigeria’s chances at harnessing nuclear power have been weakened by the country’s volatile political situation. In an interview with Voice of America News, Igor Khripunov, from the Center for International Trade and Security at the University of Georgia said:
“Unfortunately, Nigeria is not the best candidate, given violence and lack of government ability to control the situation inside the country. It has resources. It has money, but most countries are very reluctant to see a nuclear power infrastructure emerging in Nigeria given the very unstable situation inside the country.”
Ghana is set to hold its 2012 national elections, but it may not be their state of its politics that hurts their bid. As the situation in the neighboring Ivory Coast deteriorates, many observes say it is unlikely the IAEA will grant permissions for nuclear power to a country neighboring one in the midst of civil war.
At its current rate of demand, Ghana would need to double its capacity to meet its people’s energy needs. Economists say the country’s hydropower will only meet 44% of its total demand by the year 2020.
Currently, there are 30 countries in the world that generate electricity using nuclear power. Of the 440 plants in the world, South Africa, the only African nation with nuclear power, has two. Ghana’s bid makes it the most recent African nation to announce its intention to explore nuclear power. In addition to a bid from Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt are studying prospects for using nuclear for power generation as well.