The energy crisis in Africa has become endemic. In the following article Isaac Kweku Dadzie considers the Ghanaian situation. He promises to provide deeper perspectives on some of the issues raised. He writes within a socialist framework. Kindly read on.
NUCLEAR ENERGY FOR GHANA
A MUST AND URGENT NEED FOR THE PEOPLE
Isaac Kweku Dadzie
In recent times and more particularly in the last few months as Ghanaians have witnessed fluctuations in the supply of water and electricity, everyday conversations have been dominated by the hardships and discomfort caused by these shortages . This has also led to serious debate among those sections of the population who are interested in issues of public policy with regard to finding a long term and sustainable solution to power supply for both domestic consumption and industrial usage.
Ghanaians are paying a high price for this and there are instances of families spending as much as GH¢ 30 a day on diesel for their generators and sometimes as much as GH¢ 200 a month on water. Undoubtedly this burden that is carried by the public is the result of the failure of our Government to commit enough resources to other forms of power generation to enhance our electricity supply which in effect has correlation to water production and distribution.
Under the CPP Government in our first Republic industrial growth was sparked by the completion of the Akosombo Hydro-electric dam. In addition to identifying other areas such as Bui , the Tanao and Ankobra for increasing power supply nationally, the Nkrumah government started planning for a nuclear reactor under the Ghana Atomic Energy Project to produce nuclear energy for our then rapidly emerging manufacturing industries. The fact that today many people worry about the short supply of electricity to homes and small existing small industries shows that we have regressed rather than progressed in the arena of power supply. It must be obvious to all that it is imperative that we embark on a programme to prioritize direct investment in strategic areas such as power generation which will set the pace for rapid industrial growth as it was done by the CPP Government within a socialist-driven policy framework.
On November 25th 1964, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah made the following remarks at the ceremony inaugurating the Atomic Energy Project. He stated that “we have therefore been compelled to enter the field of Atomic energy, because this already promises to yield the (most?) economic source of power since the beginning of man. Our success in this field would enable us to solve the many sided problems which face us in all the spheres of our development in Ghana and in Africa.”
In the light of the ongoing crisis and the growing need for ever increasing quantities of power supply for a fast growing population, should we not return to the issue of nuclear power? We have heard why Nkrumah with his foresight chose nuclear power which coupled with the programme for more dams would certainly have made us avoid the present power/energy deficit. We should now raise the level of the debate and be imaginative enough to ask our government to re-visit the nuclear power option and urge that this be made an urgent priority. We need to overcome this incessant dumso dumso crisis (put-on-put-off put-on-put off) with a radical solution – a crisis which seems to have reached epic proportions under the John Mahama administration and for which there are no clear solutions in sight.
Researchers and Energy policy advisors argue that our development depends on adequate supply of reliable and effective use of affordable energy and make claims that its production has economic and environmental costs. They therefore propose that a balance is needed because the long term environmental and social cost of energy can erode anticipated socio-economic gains.
According to the renowned engineer and inventor, Robert Woode, a comprehensive approach to solving Ghana’s problems will therefore be viable.[i] He advises for a complete faith in atomic energy and believes it is the safest and the cheapest among all sources of energy. However, he holds the opinion that since the initial cost of establishing atomic energy is high, Ghana must exhaust the potentials of all the energy sources before we come to atomic energy usage.
Nuclear energy for electricity generation is becoming a stronger case as an alternate energy source, especially when compelling arguments are also made for solar energy. In future issues of this publication, detailed analyses of costs and safety of both cases will be presented. Our electricity situation is alarming because we are not generating enough with Hydro from Akosombo and Kpong which is producing roughly 1180 MW and Thermal producing 1005.5 MW which total as 2185.5 MW installed capacity of electricity.
Researchers and Nuclear policy experts have been able to identify seven main issues that would determine the development of Ghana’s Nuclear Power Programme. The nature of our economy (especially its pattern of production and distribution) and the financial investment, the development of the Nuclear infrastructure and its implementation, the consideration of nuclear safety and environment impact, the protection of the physical structure in order to ensure protection from radiation and to avoid the Fukushima situation and most importantly, an independent Nuclear Regulatory Authority to ensure the Legal institutional framework for the development and management of the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme.
Many people are ill-informed and have a negative perception about Nuclear Power because of two factors which include the impact of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the World War II in 1945 and trends in global politics about the fear of nuclear proliferation and other biological and chemical weapons[ii]. In the upcoming edition, a deeper perspective would be provided about these two factors and its implications for Ghana.
Despite the challenges that come with any technological advancement there are great strides and enormous development impact to a society. In this regard, some countries have exceedingly profited and socially benefitted from the production of Nuclear power to propel industries and make life easier in their domestic homes. There are about 437 operational nuclear power reactors in 31 countries providing about 5.7% of the world’s energy and 13% of global electricity. It is established that more than 150 naval vessels using nuclear propulsion are also in operation. In South Africa, there are two reactors generating 5.5% of its electricity. Its first commercial production began in 1984 and now generates 12.9TWh from its two nuclear plants. Currently, there is a draft plan to add 6 more reactors to boost their installed capacity to over 9600MWe by 2030.[iii]
I.J. K Abbor (2013),[iv] identifies nuclear power as a proven technology that has been in existence for a while and its use is increasing in Far East, Middle East, South Asia and Eastern Europe. France generates 80% of total electricity from nuclear while the United States generates 20% of its power needs from nuclear. China has 16 nuclear reactors and despite the major traumatic experience in Japan the country has revised its nuclear power policy. Mexico has taken an extraordinary and strategic step in its energy sector by diversifying its energy supplies into nuclear electricity and planning to construct an additional plant. There is a strong network among operators of nuclear power plants worldwide through the effort of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). There are about 43 countries without Nuclear power, including Ghana, who have indicated to the IAEA their willingness to participate in Technical Cooperation projects to introduce nuclear power.
The Ghana Nuclear Society, the Graduate School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences and the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission have been very instrumental as the lead-organizations here in Ghana in ensuring that the country stays current with the technological advancement in the Nuclear discipline and promote the rapid development of a nuclear power programme to save the country from possible collapse.
The Ministry of Energy should demonstrate strong policy support and long term commitment of the Government in propelling this urgent energy need for the country. Most people do not see the effect of parading journalists to thermal and hydrological generating plants by para-statal organs in the energy sector to reduce the people’s perception about the inefficiencies in the energy sector under the existing neo-colonial power-sector arrangement. These opinions are formed based on direct effect of periodic, unreliable and fluctuating power supply at most homes and few industries.
Energy is life and undoubtedly a vital component in the value-chain of production. Nuclear was identified as early as the 1960s when most countries had not thought of developing even research institutions solely for the scientific study of nuclear science and technology but Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and his CPP Government laid a foundation to develop both the institutional and technological development of nuclear power as a source of electricity to complement the hydro-power from Akosombo. This was not just fanciful dream but a correct understanding and anticipation of how scientific enquiry was essential to our progress and exploring alternative sources of energy was essential for our country.
[i] Ing. Robert Woode is a scientist and a pan Africanist who has dedicated most part of his life to research and the building of indigenous technology here in Ghana.
[iii] Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity Draft Report, 2010, Revision 2, Republic of South Africa Department of Energy (8 October 2010)
[iv] I.W.K Abbor, Nuclear Power for Sustainable development; my responsibility, an unpublished presentation.(He is a fellow of the Ghana Nuclear Society)