Kenya trains nuclear scientists to boost electricity generation

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The Kenyan government has dispatched 11 local nuclear scientists for training in South Korea as part of efforts to enhance electricity generation capacity to over 19,000 MW by 2030.

As part of the master plan to increase Kenya's installed electricity capacity over the next two decades, Kenya has dispatched a team of scientists to undertake postgraduate studies in Nuclear Science at the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) training school.

Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat, Director General, Mugo Kibati said on Thursday a team of 11 Kenyan Nuclear scientists are, now enrolled at the prestigious KEPCO International Nuclear Graduate School (KINGS).

"As part of the wider effort to enhance and diversify our electricity generation capacity, Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat is encouraged that a team of Kenyans students are now taking their Nuclear Science studies in South Korea," Kibati said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

Kenya has been facing unreliable supply of electricity highlighted by frequent power blackouts mainly blamed on higher demand than current installed capacity.

Even more worrying is that the electricity tariff is second highest in East Africa and analysts say harnessing power from geothermal is a capital intensive and high risk venture, which has scared away most, would be explorers.

Geothermal generation is being seen as the best source of affordable electricity for Kenya as part of its development blue print of achieving middle income status by the year 2030.

The East African nation's current electricity demand is 1,191 MW while the effective installed capacity under normal hydrology is 1,429 MW.

Hydro sources contribute 52.1 percent of total electricity, thermal 32.5 percent, geothermal 13.2 percent, baggase 1.8 percent and wind 0.4 percent.

At the KINGS training complex, Kibaki said, the students will undertake studies in various Nuclear Power Production (NPP) disciplines as part of a bilateral cooperation agreement between Kenya and Korea.

He noted that in tandem with the training programs, Kenya's plan to engage in nuclear electricity production is well on course under the direction of the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board.

The 11 postgraduate students enrolled this year, Kibati disclosed, will pursue a comprehensive two-year Masters Degree program in Nuclear Engineering.

Upon graduation, the Nuclear Scientists will play a key role in laying the groundwork for Kenya's nuclear electricity generation plans over the next two decades as envisaged in the Vision 2030 National Development policy.

"Over the past few years, Kenya has been sending a number of students to study at the prestigious KINGS school in Korea which will ultimately enable us to design and build a nuclear power plant by the year 2022," Kibaiti said.

Besides the 2013 class comprising of 11 students, a further six students drawn from the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board, Kenya Power and Kenya's Radiation Protection Board admitted last year are now concluding their two year Masters Studies in power generation, power transmission, and radiation safety.

"The integration of a nuclear electricity generation plant in Kenya is part of continental effort by more than 12 African governments to facilitate the diversification of power generation, " Kibaki said.

The KEPCO International Nuclear Graduate School (KINGS) is an educational institute established to cultivate leadership-level professionals in planning, design, construction, operation and management of nuclear power plants (NPPs).

The training programs, curriculum and teaching methods adopted at KINGS are, uniquely and innovatively designed to educate and train international nuclear professionals who will contribute to enhance nuclear safety and technology.

KINGS aims to be a worldwide provider of the qualified Nuclear Power Production (NPP) professionals through new study programs, which include learning lifecycle issues, and associated technologies of NPP and hands-on experience at Kori NPP complex located at the southern seashore of the Korean peninsula.

The partnership with Korea is just one of the initiatives embraced by the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board (KNEB).

Locally, 28 students sponsored by KNEB are currently undertaking Master of Science in Nuclear Science degree course at the University of Nairobi's Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology.

Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board (KNEB) Executive Chairman Ochilo Ayacko said that it is within the mandate of the organization to build the capacity and human resource skills of Kenyans in this specialized field.

"We are using local and international resources to enable Kenyans to be trained to an adequate level of competency to run all aspects of the Nuclear Power Program," Ayacko said.

He noted that a nuclear power program has three key facets: a Nuclear Electricity Program Implementing Organization (NEPIO), which is the role KNEB is performing, a regulator who will ensure application of nuclear technology is done safely with safeguards for human life and property. The third arm is the operator, which is the body that will run the nuclear power plant.

"All these organisations require highly skilled manpower, conscious of safety, security and safeguards requirements as per the International Atomic Energy Agency's guidelines," Ayacko said.

The net benefit of the increased power generation capacity will be a more competitive country, which is able to attract foreign investors, stimulate growth of the manufacturing sector, ensure energy security and ultimately the achievement of the Vision 2030 flagship projects. Endi

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