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Kenya Seeks Nuclear Power Infrastructure 180

Posted by timothy
from the everything-is-in-limited-supply dept.
New submitter Snirt writes "Kenya is seeking to develop a viable nuclear energy program within the next 15 years to meet its growing energy demands. A government commission formed last year is conducting a feasibility study and the University of Nairobi is setting up programs to train people for the nuclear program. Critics say they're concerned about plant worker safety and the risk of environmental contamination. Some 86 percent of Kenyans do not have access to electricity, relying on firewood and kerosene to meet their energy needs. Electricity is expensive(1$=KES 90), and the supply is limited."
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Kenya Seeks Nuclear Power Infrastructure

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  • by emj (15659)

    A standard two room aparment here in Sweden would cost 120 KES + 2KES/KWh*2000KWh per year, that's 50 bucks!

    • by emj (15659)

      Ooopsie sorry that should be: 120 KES + 9KES/KWh*2000KWh, 200 bucks I wonder if you can make by with 50KWh per year.

      • Re:Expensive? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09, 2012 @04:17AM (#38635514)

        Any problem?

        GDP per capita (PPP)
        Sweden: $38,204
        Yemen: $2,700
        Kenya: $1,711

      • Re:Expensive? (Score:5, Informative)

        by timnbron (1166139) on Monday January 09, 2012 @04:27AM (#38635556)

        My friend gets by with one light bulb in the lounge. He's usually using 1-2kWh per month. I think he's about average for Nairobi suburbia. Some households might have a TV and fridge. And a few more light bulbs on at once.

        • Re:Expensive? (Score:5, Informative)

          by arcite (661011) on Monday January 09, 2012 @04:54AM (#38635660)
          True, and in Kenya the average person spends over 50% of their income on food, which doesn't leave much for luxuries such as electricity. I am sure though, that if a nuclear power plant were built they would subsidize access to electricity to the poor. Most people in Kenya pirate their electricity as it is anyway.
        • My friend gets by with one light bulb in the lounge. He's usually using 1-2kWh per month. I think he's about average for Nairobi suburbia. Some households might have a TV and fridge. And a few more light bulbs on at once.

          If electricity is that expensive in Nariobi send him one of those energy efficient spiral shaped CF-bulbs or a LED-bulb. A 20W CF-bulb will give you the same amount of light as a 100W incandescent bulb and the CF-bulbs last longer. If he is using a 60W incandescent bulb now switching wold cut his electricity bill noticeably.

      • by jovius (974690)

        Exactly. I can't but fathom the determination of the Kenyans as they plough through their daily lives with multiple TV's, gaming consoles, computers, kitchen appliances and hybrid pluggable vehicles. I bet a sizable amount of Kenyans have a multiple kilowatt solarium installed for the days when the sun is momentarily behind a cloud.

        Anyway, per the GDP your current electric bill in Sweden should be multiplied by 22.5 to make it equal to the share of the Kenyans. So yes, it's expensive.

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          The electricity isn't expensive, the Kenyans are poor. Nuclear power isn't going to help here, since they already have cheap power.

          • Made in Kenya? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by tepples (727027) <{tepples} {at} {gmail.com}> on Monday January 09, 2012 @12:08PM (#38638038) Homepage Journal

            The electricity isn't expensive, the Kenyans are poor.

            I'd imagine that the Kenyans are poor only because they don't make goods for export. The Balassa-Samuelson model [wikipedia.org] explains how lack of an export sector depresses the value of a currency.

            • I would think a vital part of that model would be how much a country has to import, whether what you are importing is natural resources (fuel, raw materials), or finished products. If you import more than you export, you'll probably end up broke, no?

              I mean, theoretically, if a country had sufficient resources, they could be completely self-sustaining with no exports at all (though very few countries have access to every resource they need).

              Anyhow, I do agree with you generally - exports are good, to help yo

    • So the standard of living in Sweden is higher than Kenya?

    • Re:Expensive? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RubberMallet (2499906) on Monday January 09, 2012 @04:39AM (#38635604)

      Care to try your napkin calculation again?

      120 KES base rate
      2 KES / KWh for the first 50 KWh = 2x50=100 KES
      8.10 KES / KWh for 50 to 1500 KWh = 1500x8.10=11745
      18.57 KES /KWh for 1500 to 2000 KWh = 500x18.57= 9285

      Total cost of this hypothetical 2000 KWh /year use is: 21250 KES

      21250 KES is roughly $245 US or 192 Euro

      Now put that in perspective... this is a country where the average salary for an average job is about 15000 to 20000 KES per month (if you dont' believe me, then look at the job postings for Nairobi on websites such as http://www.bestjobskenya.com/ [bestjobskenya.com] You can get better paying jobs, but even top manager jobs top out around 80k/month). Imagine you were working an average job in Nairobi, and paying a little over one month of your before tax salary for electricity. Say you earn an average of about 35,000 Euro per year in Europe - then think about paying around 3000 Euro per year for your electricity. That's a significant portion of your take home pay. The same applies in Kenya. Electricity is VERY expensive relative to income... so much so that the vast majority cannot afford it, or cannot afford it except for only the most critical things (say charging a mobile phone (phones are super cheap in Kenya as is airtime) or running a single refrigerator).

      • by emj (15659)

        It doesn't work like that, If you can consume 2000kWh per year you live a pretty decent life, and you will make a lot more than the median family income in Kenya. But If your family do earn ~40 USD per month you can probably pay ~3 USD per year that 50kWh would cost you, that is insanely cheap. Though I'm guessing the installation price is at least 600 USD.. :-(

        I have lived in similar circumstances so I do know what I'm talking about, and if you take the lowest tier 50kWh, with that you can keep you food s

      • by MrMickS (568778)

        My combined fuel costs (gas and electric) in the UK was around 5% of my income after tax until I started a new job last week. That was on an above average salary as well.

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          You sure it wasn't taxes? You pay about a buck a liter in petrol taxes over there, plus VAT - roughly doubles the price. I don't know about electricity - but I do know that you pay some carbon tax on that.

          • by dkf (304284)

            You sure it wasn't taxes? You pay about a buck a liter in petrol taxes over there, plus VAT - roughly doubles the price. I don't know about electricity - but I do know that you pay some carbon tax on that.

            FYI, for most fuel and electricity the only tax is VAT (20% at the moment). The Climate Change Levy (about 0.5p/kWh for electricity, quite a bit lower for natural gas) doesn't apply to domestic consumers at all (well, except indirectly through higher general prices). Vehicle fuel attracts much higher taxes.

  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Monday January 09, 2012 @04:12AM (#38635492)

    Proximity to the Somali pirates (http://www.google.com/search?q=somali+pirates)... Sigh.

    How fun isn't that compared to other nuclear wielding states.

    Still, "Kenya optimistic for Somali peace prospects": http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2012-01/09/content_14405037.htm [chinadaily.com.cn]

  • TL;DR -- what is the feasibility study going to study? Are they going to check for the possibility of tsunamis in Kenya?

  • by Mannfred (2543170) <mannfred@gmail.com> on Monday January 09, 2012 @04:16AM (#38635512)
    The Kenyans - with ample sunlight - going nuclear, and the Germans - with a less favourable climate - hoping solar energy will help them get rid of their nuclear power plants.
    • by arcite (661011)
      You can't run major factories on solar power.
      • by XrayJunkie (2437814) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:53AM (#38635846)
        Not yet. But in Germany we started a bunch of research programs to cope with that. Smart (grid) solutions for large industrial compounds help to use "green energy". An intelligent combination of capacitors, solar power, wind power, and so on can make a difference. And 15 years from now, we should be able to store energy better - making solar power more attractive. This is the future. Aim for it.
        • by emilper (826945) on Monday January 09, 2012 @07:03AM (#38636074)

          An intelligent combination of capacitors, solar power, wind power, and so on can make a difference.

          so, in Germany you have super-capacitors ?

          How many billion € are you spending yearly to get less than 5% of consumption from "renewables" ? How many hundreds of € are you personally paying each month to maintain the "renewables" (look at your electricity bills and fuel bills, and see how much of that is taxes ) ? ... think a bit about it and you might realize that it's just what in US is very politely called "pork": corporate welfare for the 1%-ers.

          • by Hognoxious (631665) on Monday January 09, 2012 @07:35AM (#38636196) Homepage Journal

            If you wanted to design a country to be no good for renewables, you'd come up with Germany.

            Long winter - solar's out.
            Short coastline - wave power out.
            Long way from atlantic - less wind - turbines out
            Few mountains, mostly in one area - hydroelectric out

            • by Dunbal (464142) *
              Kind of pushes you to be creative, doesn't it?
            • by unixisc (2429386)
              The only thing they have left is thermal (coal in the Ruehr) and nuclear, and since they've just ended nuclear, they can either contribute plenty of greenhouse gases, w/ all the coal & oil they burn, or freeze to death. Pick their poison!
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Lol, I'm from Germany, and

              > Long winter - solar's out
              That's what pumped-storage hydroelectricity is for. And having your CSP plants in one of the southern neighbor countries, like spain or even north Aftica. Look up "project Desertec".

              > Short coast line - wave power out.
              Wave power is about the dumbest "green" energy source anyway. Also, you underestimate the space those things would need.

              > Long way from atlantic - less wind - turbines out.
              Then why the hell are our countrysides (lots of flat areas w

          • by Dunbal (464142) *

            How many billion € are you spending yearly to get less than 5% of consumption

            It's only euros. There are plenty of euros, and Germany can afford it. When the crunch comes, a mere 5% will make all the difference in the world. The Germans are being smart. They are survivors.

          • In the first half of 2011 Germany got 20.8% of eneergy from renewable sources. (German source: http://www.bdew.de/internet.nsf/id/DE_20110829-PI-Erneuerbare-liefern-mehr-als-20-Prozent-des-Stroms [www.bdew.de])
        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          Or...
          They will just buy electricity from France.

    • by dnwq (910646) on Monday January 09, 2012 @04:50AM (#38635648)
      The Kenyans - who are poor and value becoming less-poor over any fears (correct or not) over long-term environmental effects, and the Germans - who are rich and value said environment comparatively highly.
      • by unixisc (2429386) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:46AM (#38635818)
        If the Kenyans build a Thorium plant, they won't have to worry about nuclear waste. Aside from that, nuclear energy is the cleanest energy there is. Such a plan would be key to getting them out of poverty - once their energy problems are all solved, they can then get into other things, like manufacturing. One nuclear plant in the West of the country would be good enough - far from Somalia/ Maybe they can even share it w/ Uganda and South Sudan, and split costs that way, if it is too expensive.
        • by JSBiff (87824)

          I'm a fan of Thorium too, but lets be realistic - Kenya isn't likely to be pioneering new technology. They probably won't be building it all (well, maybe some local labor might get hired, and some local contractors used for some things). Most likely, what's going to happen, is they hire a nuclear firm from another country, like France, Russia, China, India, S. Korea, The US, Canada, etc to come build a reactor for them.

          If they are looking to build a new reactor in the next 20 years, then I suspect the most

    • by a_hanso (1891616) on Monday January 09, 2012 @07:12AM (#38636100) Journal
      So basically, going by current trends, by 2030, much of the Third World will be nuclear armed while the developed nations will have no nuclear capability?
    • by sulimma (796805)

      People tend to misestimate the scale.
      The average solar power per area in Germany is about half of that in Kenia. Solar power prices are falling by 8% each year for 30 years now. At that rate any ROI achieved in Kenia will be achieved in Germany 9 years later. While this is a good reason to built solar plants in Kenia first, the difference in location is almost irrelevant when comparing to nuclear power: 2nd generation nuclear plants are designed to operate for 60 years. A 9 year shift therefore is only a 15

    • by lazn (202878)

      The Germans should just ship their nuclear plants to Kenya! Problem solved!

  • At least some people see what's going on and what must be done, and those who talk about energy independence and those who talk about the environment cannot escape the reality - nuclear is the way forward and the way to achieve it is to do a lot of it, so that more experience can be gained and more new technologies can be worked on and eventually we must have our nuclear powered cars.

    • by loshwomp (468955) on Monday January 09, 2012 @04:44AM (#38635630)

      Agreed, except that your nuclear-powered car is already here today and it is called "electric rail".

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        I am not hauling train cars and I like to drive from point of exit to point of destination, so no, there is no 'electric car' because there is no infrastructure. I want a nuclear powered car, independent of the grid.

        • by itsme1234 (199680)

          It won't happen unless some kind of Mad Max crisis comes along.
          As of now multiple countries are giving up nuclear power PLANTS and TSA molesters are checking people boarding BUSES and you think they'll let anyone have a cheap portable nuclear reactor capable of 100 mph+ ?
          Now that we're dreaming I remember I wanted my flying car too (probably a transporter would work just as well). And a holodeck, yes, that would help!

        • by unixisc (2429386)
          I'd love there to be cars that are powered by Thorium - there was some article on that sometime ago on /. Also, if one makes a hybrid of such a Thorium car w/ solar, one can be totally off gasoline. Thorium is available in the US, Australia, India and I think Brazil, while silicon for the solar is....

          Plus, radioactive waste is not an issue w/ Thorium the way it is w/ Uranium. Problem was that Uranium's by-product is Thorium, which has a half-life of 75,000 yrs, which is why Yucca Mountain is such an i
          • by roman_mir (125474)

            right, and it's not going to happen until the people take the freedoms back from government officials and start investigating in this area due to a possible payoff. Anybody coming up with a workable solution will become wealthier than all people combined.

            • by unixisc (2429386)
              Countries like India & Kenya will have to demonstrate its feasability, since in the US, it's more likely than not to be hamstrung by activists determined to convince sheeple that nuclear == Fukushima or Yucca mountain or WMDs or war.

              However, problem is not freedom from government officials. Problem is that a majority of people, if offered the chance to vote on this on ballot propositions in any state, will heavily vote it down. People ain't going to hear Thorium or anything else - all they'll hear
          • by nojayuk (567177)

            So much stupid...

            Fissioning thorium produces a wide range of radioactive daughter elements just as fissioning uranium and plutonium does. Radioactive decay is a different process -- it produces little energy in comparison and is only used in RTGs for spacecraft and other low-power applications.

            As for non-proliferation the proposed liquid-fluorine thorium reactors (LFTRs) have to continuously process the fuel stream to prevent it creating U-233 which works fine as a nuclear weapon core. The other thoriu

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Monday January 09, 2012 @04:38AM (#38635600)
    They're using nuclear power as a front for developing weapons of mass destruction
    • by jvkenya (2549104)
      Kenyans pride themselves on being one of the few peaceful nations in the region of basket-cases. Yes, they have tribal clashes - but it's at the machete-and-torch level. They would never jeopardize tourism either, which is their biggest export.
  • Go Solar (Score:3, Informative)

    by mark99 (459508) on Monday January 09, 2012 @04:44AM (#38635626) Journal

    Kenya should probably go solar since it scales better at the small end, requires less transmission infrastructure. It is interesting that it doesn't seem to have much more sunlight than many American cities, at least according to casual web search:

          http://www.climatetemp.info/kenya/ [climatetemp.info]

          http://www.currentresults.com/Weather/US/average-annual-sunshine-by-city.php [currentresults.com]

    • Those links don't include anything about the intensity of sunlight, which is a very important factor in generating electricity from solar. They probably can generate more electricity per acre than US cities that have more clear hours of sunlight.

  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Monday January 09, 2012 @04:50AM (#38635646)
    It's a good thing that Slashdot told us that Android Phones Sell Like Hotcakes In Kenya [slashdot.org]. As a firm believer in press releases, I for one welcome the use of firewood for recharging smartphones twice a day...
  • by solarissmoke (2470320) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:02AM (#38635682)

    The sun is not our only asset. Already a significant proportion of our power comes from hydroelectric and geothermal plants, and there is scope for (and investment happening in) much more.

    The biggest problem we face is not sourcing energy, but in dealing with the huge inefficiencies and rickety infrastructure that we currently have. Here in Nairobi have power cuts several times a week (not because of lack of supply, but because of regular failures in the poorly maintained grid). As it happens, the transformer right outside my home has exploded (literally) and been replaced four times in the last three months. Most businesses in Nairobi have invested in back up generators because the supply is so unreliable.

    One major obstacle to real improvement is the fact that the Kenya Power and Lighting Company operates a monopoly on electricity sales in Kenya, and there is no incentive for it to reduce costs and improve infrastructure. They posted record profits in 2011, at the same time as electricity prices in the country reached record highs.

  • A Kenyan perspective (Score:5, Informative)

    by jmugambi (853089) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:03AM (#38635686)
    Energy is VERY expensive in Kenya, and unfortunately so (calculations given are realistic). There are reasons to this, and the situation could be better. Would love it if our Government go solar over nuclear (alot of the country has suitable weather). I don't quite trust the current structures in place - especially regarding adhering to standards rules regulations etc. Not sure though if any other source of energy will meet the obvious needs. Most energy needs are concentrated around Nairobi (capital) and other major towns. Much of rural Kenya has no electricity. For domestic use, I would think solar is ideal especially in areas outside of the grid, just that most cannot afford the components. I'm not sure if many here quite grasp the meaning of living below the poverty line. Yet others in rural areas may not see the use of having energy for say a washing machine or microwave in their homes unless (1) they see the need for it, and more importantly (2) they can afford it. Proximity to Somalia: peace in Somalia would be hugely beneficial to the region, what with the piracy, and the threat of terrorism one would be understandably be nervous. Now replying to some of the spicier remarks: "... if they can steal tarmac off the road to make a floor for the house, I'm sure they'll grab a solar panel and rig a car headlamp to it... " Not quite practical - stealing tarmac - just think about it (and some of the roads are so bad there's no tarmac to steal anyway). However, solar panels do get stolen... "They're using nuclear power as a front for developing weapons of mass destruction" - As a country that has suffered a terrorist attack on more than one occassion, why? In bad taste this. (Kenyan)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "They're using nuclear power as a front for developing weapons of mass destruction" - As a country that has suffered a terrorist attack on more than one occassion, why? In bad taste this. (Kenyan)

      I think this is a joke aimed at percieved US paranoia and not at Kenya, ie., the idea that any country outside the "first world" that is interested in nuclear power must actually be hiding a weapons development program

    • by msobkow (48369)

      The article mentions the Kenyan people are concerned about the risks of nuclear power. Not surprising at all after the Japanese accident this past year.

      Have they considered partnering with anyone to develop and deploy some of the non-uranium technologies that are being developed by companies like Fuji with their work on Thorium Molten Salt Reactors? It's a much safer design than uranium systems, and proven to work in the 1960s. I don't know how close Fuji is to shipping them, but maybe they're close e

    • by Solandri (704621)

      Would love it if our Government go solar over nuclear (alot of the country has suitable weather).

      Solar is unsuitable for base load, since its production capacity varies with time of day and the weather. Unless you're willing to invest $billions (if not $trillions) in batteries or pumped storage, you need some other sources of energy with an on/off switch.

      Much of rural Kenya has no electricity. For domestic use, I would think solar is ideal especially in areas outside of the grid, just that most cannot aff

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      People really confuse making nuclear weapons with nuclear reactors for some odd reason.
      A light water nuclear reactor is not a good technology for making nuclear weapons. A thorium based reactor is even worse.

  • by edxwelch (600979) on Monday January 09, 2012 @05:21AM (#38635748)

    if Kenya wants cheap electricity, then nuclear is the worst option. It only appears cheap because of massive government subsidies.

    According to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists:
    "Government subsidies to the nuclear power industry over the past fifty years have been so large in proportion to the value of the energy produced that in some cases it would have cost taxpayers less to simply buy kilowatts on the open market and give them away"
    http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/nuclear_power_and_global_warming/nuclear-power-subsidies-report.html [ucsusa.org]

    • by MrMickS (568778)

      How does this differ from the subsidies given to green alternatives such as wind and solar? Power generation infrastructure is expensive and subsidy is the only way to move away from the cheaper fossil fuel methods.

      • by edxwelch (600979)

        > How does this differ from the subsidies given to green alternatives such as wind and solar?

        they are much larger and more hidden

    • One thing that we can expect is that a portion of solar power installed in the west will need to be removed when a building is refurbished or reroofed. When reinstalled, new panels will be used to match the renewed condition of the building (and the lower present cost of panels). That makes an aftermarket in used panels which may be very attractive in Africa.
    • by stdarg (456557)

      Nuclear is expensive here because of environmental and legal concerns. It could well be a completely different animal in more liberal countries that are willing to take on higher risks.

      • Higher risks in this case meaning destruction of clean water supplies and arable land, two things that Kenya isn't exactly brimming with in the first place.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Monday January 09, 2012 @06:02AM (#38635876)

    Maybe we should start sending folks in Africa electricity, instead of gadgets that use electricity?

  • In a previous post I made an erroneous referral to an East African space program - http://tech.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2610112&cid=38635706 [slashdot.org].

    Now I recall it was from the Congo - http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=591_1249254184 [liveleak.com]. Strangely, this has not been reported by Slashdot.

    At least one rodent still is missing in action.

  • by rbrander (73222) on Monday January 09, 2012 @11:04AM (#38637334) Homepage

    Well, the Chinese are building reactors like crazy, and working on new ones. I guess, for lack of American or European initiative, it will be the Chinese that build the first LFTR around 2020 or so; if those work as well as imagined, by 2030 everybody will be wondering why we thought of any other power source - and the Chinese will have locked up the market. And if not the LFTR, it'll be some other Generation IV design that takes off.

    The technology, for all its faults, works. Ask the French. LFTRs and other GenIV ideas are evolutionary improvements, not revolutionary.

    While we dither about the horrendous dangers of it, (as we die at the rate of 24,000/year from coal), others will simply move ahead without us.

    Bummer to be out-tech'd by Kenya, though. (No offense, Kenya).

    • Why waste our time on it when if we invent a nuclear power station that is actually desirable (which has been 5-10 years off for 40+ years) we will just give away the knowledge in the form of patents that the Chinese will unofficially ignore? Then we will out source all the relevant jobs to China and they will corner the market; why would it be any different than all the other markets? Those were back when we had the ability to say no. If we are going to do it for ourselves; we should work with the planet

  • A nuclear plant needs to be secure constantly, it's a very bad idea to build one in an unstable country. What will happen is that the UN will have to guard it every time some fights break out.

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