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18.04.2007 General News

We’re Going Nuclear

By Daily Guide

In the face of the unreliability of the Akosombo Dam to generate Hydro-electricity to meet the nation's energy requirement and the high cost of Thermal energy, the government of Ghana has put in place measures to conduct feasibility studies into Nuclear Energy as an alternative source of power for the country.

To this end, President Kufuor has established a Committee, under the Chairmanship of Prof. Adzei Bekoe, to explore the various options and the drawing up of a roadmap for its economic, security and safety viability.

Addressing a Press Conference yesterday at the monthly 'Meet the Press' series at the Ministry of Information and National Orientation in Accra Prof. Bekoe, who is the Chairman of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) in an answer to a rhetoric question said: “Can Ghana Run a Nuclear Power Plant”?, “the answer is a resounding YES.”

“This is based on our ability to manage several new technologies. For example, before Akosombo, we had not had the experience of running a hydroelectric power plant.

We have successfully been running a relatively small nuclear research reactor for more than ten (10) years,” he said emphatically.

Enumerating the advantages of nuclear energy as against hydroelectric and thermal energy, Prof. Bekoe said nuclear power was a proven technology and that it has been used safely and efficiently and securely for decades; at least for 50 years.

Prof. Bekoe, who is also the Chairman of the Council of State, alluded to the fact that nuclear energy was an alternative source of power, an alternative to power generated from oil or hydroelectric dams which dominated the power scene in Ghana.

He said it was necessary for Ghana to use nuclear energy because “energy is a necessary input for development, from agriculture to manufacturing, from education to health and tourism.

It has been recognised that the energy shortage in developing countries is a serious impediment to development and generally to efforts to eradicate poverty.”

“Energy supply must therefore be planned and implemented systematically to support development, he concluded.

“However, nuclear power plants for the generation of electricity have to be planned well in advance. If a decision is taken now to add a nuclear power plant to our sources of electricity, it will take at least eight years to deliver the first nuclear electricity,” he said.

According to Prof. Bekoe, nuclear power was a proven technology and that it has been used safely and efficiently and securely for decades; at least for 50 years.

He, nonetheless, added that nuclear technology was a sophisticated technology that required a correspondingly sophisticated infrastructure.

“Some of this infrastructure already exists; most of the rest could be systematically put in place within a maximum of two years. They relate to safety, security, legal and regulatory framework, etc.”

The Chairman of the Commission said from experience of many years of operation of nuclear power plants, it has become necessary to develop effective national policies and legislation so that, among other objectives the safety of operators, the environment and the general population is assured and that they were protected from ration.

The other objectives were the necessary scientific and technical manpower was developed and the long term interests of investors were assured and protected.

Prof. Bekoe allayed the fears of Ghanaians saying Nuclear Power was safe because its governing body, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), established 50 years ago, was to promote the use of nuclear energy for the solution of many of the problems of development.

The Minister of Energy Kofi Adda denied media reports that President Kufuor had finally concerted to the exploration of Nuclear Energy as alternative to hydro-electricity and other forms of energy in the midst of energy crisis bedeviling the country.

He said what the President did was to establish a Committee to explore the various options and the drawing up of a roadmap for its economic, security and safety viability.

In a reaction to a question posed by a Journalist when the Committee was supposed to finish and submit its reports to Cabinet, Mr. Adda said the Committee had not been given any fixed deadline but had been given a wide span to deliberate on the various options and come out with necessary directional policies for the government to study.

He added that under the National Energy Policy of the NPP government, Solar and Windmill options for generating electricity were still in place and that government was liaising with all stakeholders in the provision and consumption of electricity to function out a common ground.

For his part the Director General of GAEC Prof. Akaho disclosed that the Commission has the capacity in terms of professional competence in the staff to carry out any project in relation nuclear power.

Prof. Akaho said even though managing the waste product of nuclear energy could be dangerous and costly, there was a way out and Ghana would not have problem managing the waste.

Present at the programme were Mr. Kwamena Bartles and Mrs. Oboshie Sai Cofie, Minister and Deputy Minister respectively of Information and National Orientation, Prof. Ayensu, member of the Commission and Dr. Ransford Osei.