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01.12.2020 Article

Construction of Nuclear Power Plants in Ghana: Jobs for welding and NDT personnel

By Emmanuel Afrane Gyasi & Bright J.A.Y. Sogbey
Nuclear power plant under constructionNuclear power plant under construction
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Ghana has a long history towards the adoption of nuclear energy in the quest to end energy crises and in the same vein enhance energy security to achieving the industrialization agenda of the nation [1]. Nuclear energy is rated among the safest, cleanest and reliable energy sources with zero carbon emissions (greenhouse gases) when compared with fossil fuels, coal, peat and hydro [2]. It is claimed that Ghana has one (1) nuclear reactor for research, medical, and industrial purposes, but not for electricity generation. Despite the setbacks to commence generation of power from nuclear energy, the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), a member of the International Nuclear Library Network, has been working assiduously with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to implement nuclear power in Ghana [3]. Moreover, the current formation of the Nuclear Power Ghana (NPG) set out to oversee the construction and operation of Ghana’s first nuclear power plant [4] is evident that the nation is on the track to developing her national infrastructure for nuclear power. Having nuclear power in Ghana is a great initiative for sustainable power and should be supported by Ghanaians.

According to research, nuclear power has several benefits when implemented according to IAEA safety standards and classifications (i.e. IAEA SSR-2/1, IAEA SSG-30). Typical examples can be drawn from countries like Germany, USA, UK, and Finland. These countries utilize nuclear power in their electricity mix. As of 2019, Finland had four nuclear reactors, providing about 30% of the country's electricity. The total net electric power was 2,794 MW. A fifth reactor is under construction while a sixth reactor is being planned. If all the six (6) nuclear power plants are operationalized, the share of electricity to be produced will double, reaching around 60%. The estimated operating lifetime target for the new reactor units is at least 50 years [5, 6]. If Finland with a population of 5.6 million would have six (6) nuclear power plants by 2023, how many should a nation like Ghana with a population of 30 million have by 2030?

In addition to the benefits it brings to Ghana’s energy mix, the construction and operations of nuclear power plants would increase careers in the nuclear energy sector, thus providing lots of job opportunities, especially for welding, destructive testing (DT) & non-destructive testing (NDT) personnel. The construction of a nuclear power plant requires several major systems, structures and components such as reactor pressure vessel, pressurizer and steam generators. These key components, in addition to pipelines, need to be designed, fabricated, and the installation process requires welding. Only qualified and certified welding personnel can work on such projects. In addition, before, during and after welding, all the materials need to be: a) examined; b) tested through DT & NDT; c) qualified and certified through quality control processes. Similarly, this means that only qualified and certified NDT personnel can work on such projects.

There have been bad experiences where the nation engages in construction projects and Ghanaians were not employed because they did not have the required qualification and certification to work on the projects. At such expense, contractors tended to bring in expatriates to pick up the jobs while Ghanaians went unemployed. Never again - the Ghanaian youth are tired of such excuses and bad experiences.

Therefore, together with the Ministry of Energy, GAEC and NPG should encourage and provide resources to train thousands of welders and other welding and NDT personnel. Training and qualification of such personnel should be done according to international standards, thus, welders, welding specialist and NDT personnel should be trained and qualified according to ISO 9606, ISO 14731 and 9712 standards respectively. These personnel should be readily available to pick up jobs when the construction of such facilities commences in Ghana. The newly established Ghana Institution of Welding (GIW) could be one of the key stakeholders to promote and provide oversight responsibilities in training such personnel.

Secondly, universities, technical universities, research centres and other state and private institutions in Ghana should collaborate with institutions abroad to embark on research and development (R&D) and education in nuclear power generation at the undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral levels. The focus of nuclear R&D should include safety and operational performance of the power plants, and the management and disposal of nuclear radioactive waste.

Acknowledgement

The authors would like to express their gratitude to Aktiva Institute of Innovation, Technology Training and Certification (AKTIVA I.I.T.T.C) and the Industrial Solutions Group at Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC).

References

[1] Nuclear Energy in Ghana, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_energy_in_Ghana.

[2] Hanna Ritchie (2020), Nuclear Energy, https://ourworldindata.org/nuclear-energy.

[3] Joe Okyere; Salome Donkor (2002), Ghana to adopt nuclear power? Graphic, Modern Ghana.

[4] Elizabeth Dyck (2019), IAEA Reviews Progress of Ghana’s Nuclear Infrastructure Development, https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/iaea-reviews-progress-of-ghanas-nuclear-infrastructure-development.

[5] Nuclear power in Finland, World Nuclear Association.

[6] Further delay in commissioning of Finnish ERP, World Nuclear News.

*Dr. Gyasi is a mechanical/welding engineer, a TVET and pedagogy facilitator and senior researcher.

Contact: [email protected]

Ing. Dr. Bright J.A.Y. Sogbey is a research scientist/Engineer at Ghana Atomic Energy Commission.

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