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17.04.2007 General News

Nuclear nervousness or nuclear confusion?

By Nana Kwaku AGYEMAN

The reported approval of cabinet for the use of Nuclear Power to produce electricity in the wake of the country's energy crisis is generating some controversy following revelations that President Kufuor is personally against anything nuclear.

While sources at the Information ministry have confirmed the cabinet's meeting with the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) in pursuance of the nuclear power policy, statements attributed to President Kufuor suggests serious disagreements at the level of cabinet on the way forward.

Speaking to some potential British investors and journalists during his recent visit to London, President Kufuor according to a voice recording secured by CitiFM in Accra stated his fears and discomfort with anything nuclear.

“…for some of us, at the mere mention of the word nuclear, we become nervous and are tempted to resist him…” in apparent reference to the work of a Professor Adzei Beloe-led committee in that direction.

Professor Bekoe (Council of State Chairman) had been mandated by the president to look into the possibilities of nuclear energy and according to a BBC report over the weekend, details of the committee's work and conclusions will be announced tomorrow Tuesday April 17.

But the president's London comments and information gathered from senior government officials suggests that the president may likely reject any plans for nuclear power, a move that could most likely result in another policy disaster for the government.

The release of cabinet's interest and near support for nuclear power brought some glimmer of hope to some sections of the populace and senior nuclear scientists in Ghana. But the revelation of the President's personal views occasioned possibly by the worldwide campaign by some groups is likely to affect any long term intentions of government to pursue nuclear power for electricity generation.

The celebrated Ghanaian Nuclear Scientist and former head of the GAEC, Professor Francis Allotey who is also a former governor of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has however allayed the fears of the president. In an interview with the BBC on Saturday, the long time advocate of nuclear power for energy generation said the international community cannot be afraid of Ghana using nuclear energy to generate electricity.

Insisting that solar and wind energy though reliable alternatives, cannot provide power for industrial purposes, Professor Allotey said France generates 80 percent of its energy from nuclear with Switzerland generating about 40 percent. South Africa is also making headway in nuclear power.

He advised government to quickly begin the process of establishing nuclear power reactors for energy generation as a long term solution to Ghana's energy problems, adding that for Ghana to become competitive in industrial development, nuclear power must be adopted.

As Ghana's energy crisis continue to seriously affect industrial and domestic lives, with several job losses and increase in criminal activities, many Ghanaians are desperately looking up to government for cheaper but reliable energy alternatives.

Government has so far imported several thermal based generators into the country as a short term measure to deal with the precarious energy situation. Reports on JoyFM suggests that the 38 thermal based generators at the Tema Port which came on stream last week is costing the state close to three billion cedis every day to produce only 50-megawatts of electricity, a figure way below the current national energy demand of over 500-megawatts for the intensity of the blackouts to be reduced.

Meanwhile, conservationists and environmentalists have been warning of severe consequences for the country and its citizens, should the plans for nuclear power get underway.

Project Coordinator of the Green Earth Organization Barletey Gormey says Ghana cannot manage the radioactive waste to be generated by nuclear reactors and cautioned government to rather embark on the pursuit of renewable energy.

Their fears might be in conformity with the President, but will that sway government from going nuclear?