A public participation forum on Nuclear Regulatory Bill 2018 was held in Nkoroi Catholic Church on 22nd March 2019. The event was hosted by the National Assembly Energy Committee and led by the chairman Hon. David Gikaria (MP Nakuru Town East)
The bill went through the first reading on 4th December 2018 and thereafter committed for public participation. Concerns were immediately raised by the members of the public who had not read or even seen the draft bill prior to the forum. The majority felt they needed the draft bill at least 7 days prior to the forum to be able to scrutinize it fully. Hon. Gikaria told the members of the public, that the bills are usually in the national assembly website for downloading. Hon. Gikaria however accepted, there was a failure in providing Kajiado North residents with the draft bill earlier enough. He apologized for the late issuance of the document and informed the members of the public that they have between 14 to 45 days to send their input to the parliamentary energy committee for consideration via the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
The objective and purpose of the Act as drafted in the bill is
- To regulate the safe, secure and peaceful development, production, possession, use storage, transport, transfer, disposal or handling of nuclear and radioactive materials, activities and facilities and other apparatus generating ionizing radiation.
- To protect persons, property and the environment in relation to nuclear and radioactive material, activities and facilities and other apparatus generating ionizing radiation.
The bill proposes the establishment of a commission to be known as the Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and therefore replacing the Radiation Protection Board. The commission shall be allocated money by parliament for the purpose of the commission. The commission will also raise funds through loans, grants, or from donations.
A system of control over radiation sources shall be established by the commission to ensure they are safely managed and safeguarded during and at the end of their useful lives. The commission shall be mandated to vet and issues licenses to any entity wishing to set up a nuclear facility in the country.
Decommission Fund to Be Established
A Decommissioning Fund administered by the commission shall be established to cater for decommissioning facilities that are either old or no longer functional. The fund will also be used to cater for the management of radioactive waste and spent fuel. The Commission shall issue an authorization to any person wishing to import or export nuclear materials or nuclear-related equipment and technology. All nuclear material shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. Manufacture of nuclear weapons and other nuclear-related explosive devices shall not be allowed in Kenya.
Benefits of a Nuclear Power Plant
The CEO of Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board Eng. Collins Juma said the idea behind building the nuclear power plant in Kenya is to reduce power cost. The Engineer confirmed uranium will be used to generate fuel to power the proposed nuclear power plant. He further claimed that South Korea is manufacturing goods because of cheap electricity produced through nuclear energy. He concluded by saying that the probability of a nuclear accident is very minimal and can be very dangerous if it happens.
More Civic Education Needed
Mr. Macharia who is a resident of Ongata Rongai said, civic education is needed to raise awareness and understanding of such bills. He proposed for such bills committed to public participation, be given to the members of the public early enough and not on the day of the forum.
Former Kajiado Senator Paul Mositet asked how the commission intends to fund the proposed power plant? He claimed Kenya is not capable of managing a nuclear plant considering the high levels of corruption. The former Senator also claimed that South Africa has abandoned plans to increase nuclear plants from 2 to 9. He concluded by challenging local engineers to innovate and develop new cleaner energy sources in order to address our energy needs.
Irene Kamau (Director – ACTION NOW KENYA) Said “there is very minimal awareness of the nuclear energy amongst the members of the public. There are safety concerns amongst members of the public in case of nuclear disaster, considering the high cases of negligence in Kenya. The project is a misplaced priority considering the high levels of poverty and even hunger in some parts of the country.”
Mr. Gerrshon Kiara who is former PS said “Negativity, fear, and politicization of every development agenda is our downside as a country. Kenya should proceed and develop a nuclear power plant. If we borrow the best practices in the world, there is nothing to worry about. Corruption should not deter us from pursuing our development agenda as a country. We must fight corruption and at the same time pursue development.”
Bishop Henry Omae said “Proper civic education needed a way in advance. Documents to be discussed should be shared with the members of the public at least 7 days in advance. The speed at which we are being rushed to pass the bill raises fears of possible brokerage. How will mining or importation of Uranium be handled? Kenyans must be convinced and given assurance for their safety.”
Sophia Katampoi who is a resident of Oloolua ward and environmentalist said “Nuclear Energy is not bad but let us think about the policy before implementing. The energy parliamentary committee is pushing the bill a bit too fast raising concerns of the motive behind it.”
Environmentalist Chris Muriithi said members of the public require more time to go through the bill. Germany is currently in the process of shutting down its nuclear power plants. Nuclear energy is good, but we should wait until 2050 considering our high levels of corruption.
Shadrack Okenyu who is an opinion leader and resident of Ngong said “Nuclear energy is not a priority in Kenya. We should focus on other priorities such as feeding our population. Before proceeding with nuclear energy, we must be convinced that Kenya has exhausted all the energy sources available”
Kaara Waithaka (founder member of Kreative the Hub) said “The government should invest in IT to address some of the challenges we are facing as a country, such as communication with members of the public”
Nyambura Muturi (Leadership & Governance- PHD Student) said: “Singapore did not develop with nuclear energy but gas.” She was countering claims by the nuclear board of Kenya CEO Eng. Collins Juma that nuclear energy was a key factor in the economic development of Singapore.
She further said “US and France are struggling to manage their nuclear waste. The energy parliamentary committee should have gone to Ukraine and Japan to benchmark on the dangers of Nuclear energy.” She was responding to a comment made by Kajiado North Member of Parliament Hon Manje that the energy parliamentary committee had traveled to Russia to benchmark on the nuclear power plant.
Joseph Maina (CEO, Radiation Protection Board) said “The bill will enhance regulatory systems. We have to put measures to protect radioactive materials against terrorists – KDF & DCI are included in the Act. The board will account for nuclear materials in the country twice a year. The Regional Centre for radiation security will be in Oloolua forest and for training. There are currently 12 nationalities training in the facility. The facility will safeguard nuclear radioactive materials. It is not a nuclear waste disposal facility and it will never be a disposal facility. The bill is a framework to regulate existing radioactive materials and in case we build a nuclear power plant.”
Eng. Ezra Odhiambo (Chairperson Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board) said “Building a nuclear power plant is a process which is internationally regulated. To go nuclear we must as a country, increase the energy capacity to 18 Gigawatts (18,000 megawatts)” The current capacity connected to the grind in Kenya is just below 3 Gigawatts (3000 megawatts)
Engineer Odhiambo further said “We must have the capacity to use the nuclear energy capacity. Our economy must also grow by double-digits for the next 10years. If we achieve all the above we will enter PHASE ONE which will involve inspections and assessment of our capacity to build a nuclear power plant. The presidents of Kenya will thereafter make a presidential statement declaring the country’s intention to build a nuclear power plant.”
The plant will cost 500 billion shillings and will produce 1000 megawatts when completed.
The Power plant according to Eng. Collins Juma will be located near an area with large water mass for cooling purposes and therefore eliminating Oloolua Forest as a possible site for a nuclear power plant. The most likely locations would be the coast, Lake region or Turkana County.