November 26, 2010 / 3:44 PM / 9 years ago

Kenya seeks sites for nuclear power plant

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya is seeking sites for the construction of a nuclear power plant along its coast, its energy minister said in a government notice on Friday.

The government has formed a committee to help identify the sites and ensure that all terms and conditions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) necessary for the approval of a nuclear power plant are met.

“Prepare and endorse a detailed road map for the realization of these terms and conditions indicating the milestones and time lines for approval by the IAEA,” Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi said in the notice, outlining the mandate of the 13-member committee.

Earlier this year, Kenya’s National Economic and Social Council (NESC) recommended that east Africa’s biggest economy embark on a program to start generating nuclear energy by 2020 to meet its growing demand for electricity.

The NESC is mandated with providing the government with new policies to accelerate economic growth, create employment and reduce poverty in an economy where agriculture accounts for a quarter of gross domestic product.

Kenya views nuclear power both as a long-term solution to high fuel costs — incurred during times of drought when diesel generators are used — and an effective way to cut carbon emissions from the power generating sector.

Kenya’s main electricity producer, KenGen, is already hunting for a partner to produce nuclear power by 2022 to help match-up rising demand and diversify from hydropower.

The power producer projects that Kenya as a whole could produce some 4,200 megawatts (MW) using nuclear by 2022.

Kenya relies on hydropower to generate about 65 percent of its electricity but has began channeling investments toward geothermal plants and wind farms to diversify energy sources.

Drought hit dam levels badly in 2009 and hydropower’s share of energy production slumped to just 30 percent, forcing KenGen to use fuel-powered generators to try and plug the shortfall.

(Reporting by Mark Deng; Editing by David Clarke and Michael Taylor)

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