The President, Mr J. A. Kufuor, has set up a committee of experts to explore the possibility of using nuclear energy as an alternative source of power in the country.
The committee, which is headed by the Chairman of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), Prof Daniel Adzei-Bekoe, has been mandated to come up with a strategic road map and advise the government on the way forward.
The Energy Minister, Mr Joseph Kofi Adda, who made this known at a press briefing in Accra yesterday, said the committee members, some of whom had been drawn from the GAEC, were “still scooping and consulting” to do their work.
He said the government had not given the members any time frame within which to finish their work, since it was confident in their expertise.
“The government has given them the window of opportunity to advise on what to do,” he said.
Mr Adda said nuclear energy was one of the energy source options contained in Ghana's Draft National Energy Policy as part of a long-term measure of solving the energy crisis in the country.
He, however, denied reports that the Cabinet had taken a decision to opt for nuclear energy, explaining that it would take the decision on the nuclear energy option only after the committee of experts had presented its report.
It would be recalled that the Daily Graphic issue of April 11, 2007 reported that the Cabinet had resolved to opt for nuclear energy as an alternative source of power in an effort to avert any future energy crisis in the country.
Mr Adda gave the assurance that the government “will go according to the laws of the land and use the right means”, noting that while pursuing nuclear energy, the government was “aggressively pursuing” other sources of energy, such as solar and wind.
He said the government had implemented a pilot project on solar energy, adding that it had contracted a facility to encourage the private sector to help in the area of solar energy.
He said the government was considering doubling the country's installed energy capacity within the next three to five years.
Prof Adzei-Bekoe said nuclear power was a proven technology which had been used safely, efficiently and securely for about 50 years now.
He said nuclear technology was a sophisticated one, which required corresponding sophisticated infrastructure, and stated that some of the infrastructure existed in the country, while most of it could systematically be put in place within a maximum of two years.
Prof Adzei-Bekoe, who is also Chairman of the Council of State, said from the experience of decades of operating nuclear plants, it was necessary to develop effective national policies and legislation to ensure the safety of operators and the environment and assure the public of their protection from radiation and radioactive materials, including nuclear waste.
He stressed that the policies and legislation were to facilitate the development of scientific and technical manpower and assure investors of the protection of their long-term interests, adding that the planning and implementation would take five to six years.
Prof Adzei-Bekoe said Ghana depended heavily on hydro and thermal power for electricity and said hydro depended on regular and sustained rainfall, while thermal depended on access to fossil fuels (oil and gas) at prices which were sometimes not within the government's means.
“Unless we have other sources of power available, our power security will remain suspect and subject to occasional crises, such as we have now,” he pointed out.
Prof Adzei-Bekoe said in contrast to thermal sources which generated greenhouse gases and contributed to global warming, the generation of nuclear power was environmentally friendly.
He said for the past three to four years the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), at the request of some developing countries, including Ghana, had been addressing the energy needs of developing countries and quoted the Director-General of the agency as saying that “for those member states that choose to use nuclear power, there is much that the agency can do to make this option accessible, affordable, safe and secure”.
Prof Adzei-Bekoe said President Kufuor had, for the past few years, been showing “a cautious interest” in the nuclear energy subject and said the interest had been intensified in recent months.
Story by Musah Yahaya Jafaru