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Interview with Dr David Otwoma at the Kenyan Nuclear Electricity Project

Dr David Otwoma

Dr David Otwoma is chief scientist and secretary to the Kenyan Nuclear Electricity Project (NEP) Committee, which is charged with the responsibility of harnessing nuclear energy for Kenya by 2022. Dr Otwoma had an interview with The Global Herald on the steps they are making as well as the various challenges they are out to overcome for this dream to become a reality.

Q. As a result of the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant crisis, Germany as a country is withdrawing from nuclear energy altogether by 2022. As a country that is breaking into this energy sector what is your take?

A. “First and foremost the Japanese minister called residents near the nuclear power stations and other people in Japan to understand that electricity restraint is the largest issue for the growth of Japan’s economy.

“He counselled them to allow the restart of nuclear power stations for the future development of the Japanese economy. The minister promised to visit the regions where nuclear power stations are located to explain the situation and ask for restart of the facilities.

“Secondly, Germany’s grid is interconnected to that of European Union members (25 countries) and since electricity can be purchased from say France (whose consumption is more than 70 percent nuclear energy) they can afford to close all their nuclear power plants and rely on electricity from elsewhere. Japan cannot do that!

“Thirdly, Japan and Germany generate more than 120,000 megawatts (MW) which are both developed unlike Kenya which aims to be a middle level economy by 2030 (not even a developed country). It may be better to compare ourselves with countries which have emerged from underdeveloped to developed status, example South Korea which was generating 2,600 MW in 1971 is now generating close to 80,000 MW. Nuclear energy has turned the tables.”

Q. Some experts are saying Kenya is not ready to harness nuclear energy by the stipulated time frame of 2022; what is your position?

A. “We need to have workshops which can enable the public to listen to arguments of both those who are for and against before having a perception. We are willing to host workshops and invite the public as observers.”

Q. On the same note some experts are suggesting that Kenya should exploit green energy, such as wind, solar and geothermal before considering nuclear, what is your opinion?

A. “The Least Cost Power Development Plan (2011 to 2031) shows that we need to have installed a capacity of more than 17,000 megawatts (MW). Yes, we do have a geothermal potential of 7,000 MW but currently we are producing about 210 MW.

“For us to industrialize, we need a huge base load which can be obtained from coal, nuclear, oil and geothermal. Even if we exploited the whole of geothermal potential where do we get the balance of 10,000 MW? Wind, solar, hydro are good for peaking (not base load) and hence are not reliable for industry (which needs an assured base load 24/7). Are we suggesting that our industries should close when the sun goes down, the wind stops blowing and/or the rain stops falling?”

Q. How viable is nuclear energy in comparison to other sources?

A. “Just for base load sources (that is coal, geothermal, oil) nuclear compares favorable.”

Q. Have you identified the site of the nuclear plant, if so where?

A. “We are in the pre-project phase – where we are carrying out a pre-feasibility study, first, so that we can make a knowledgeable commitment towards nuclear power. Once we are done with pre-feasibility study which in some countries took 12 months and others more we can embark on phase two which will incorporate carrying out a feasibility study. The feasibility would include site surveys, characterization and selection. When the selection is done everyone would know where the site is!”

Q.What about the deposit of the radioactive waste? (Where and how)

A. “During the pre-feasibility study, feasibility study, construction, operation and decommissioning of the nuclear power plants the issue of radioactive waste management will always be kept alive. Countries like France who are operating more than 59 nuclear power plants for electricity generation plan to make a decision on depository of high level radioactive waste in 2025, others like USA who have in excess of 104 nuclear power plants are yet to make a decision. No country has made a decision on the final repository of high level radioactive waste so the where for Kenya is very pre-mature. The how waste is stored we can learn from other countries that operate nuclear power plants.”

About Robert Okemwa Onsare

Robert Okemwa Onsare
Robert Onsare is pursuing Electronics Technology at the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton. He is a Cluster Strategy trained facilitator by Kenya's National Economic and Social Council (NESC). Mr Onsare has been an incubation student at the University of Nairobi, School of Engineering, FabLab, a venture project of the university and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is a member of the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) and a published poet. Mr Onsare is based in Kenya.

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  1. Indeed, as Dr.Otwoma puts it,the youth have the crucial role to propel the nuclear developments in this country. I am eager to engage my readership and energy in the Nuclear Master plan scheduled to be tabled this year,2012 which will show a clear road map in the roll out of nuclear electricity project.It is imperative to engage the public (major stakeholder) through civic education on the benefits of the nuclear technology as well as harnessing their views that can assist in effective project planning. For the young scientists seeking for career growth in the nuclear field, accessing short/long term training in Nuclear Engineering, Nuclear Knowledge Management, Nuclear law, Safeguards, Decommissioning among other applicable disciplines may deem necessary for a knowledgeable manpower resource. Having benefited from the support of the National Council of Science and Technology and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Technical Cooperation,I recommend the training for all that are interested. For more information, don’t hesitate to post your inquiries on this page.
    ” let’s make the vision 2030 a reality through nuclear power ”


  2. kenya should not blindly seek the harnessing of nuclear energy. If simple tasks such as sewage disposal and waste management is a problem. security structures are very inefficient. How can they manage to produce nuclear power?!! They are being short sited.

  3. Try this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQXP6BKBhTw

    Then contact DCNS for your fears please as the flexblue is undergoing licensing procedures and they will certainly cover your concerns. If not


    The concept draws on DCNS’s 40 years’ experience in nuclear engineering and a century of experience in submarine design and construction. It also benefits from the Group’s unique expertise in naval systems and nuclear propulsion. Flexblue brings together the very best of DCNS’s know-how in submarine engineering and marine environments to ensure performance, reliability, safety, durability and environmental protection.



    the ASN issues its opinion concerning the methodologies adopted by the operators in order to conduct complementary safety assessments in the light of the nuclear accident that occurred at the Fukushima NPP

  4. We Kenyan are very articulate and good in drafting paper work and plans ..Dr Otwoma are you sure this is not another paper work project with nothing physically tangible? a white elephant like the turkwel project.

  5. I am yet to come across something that has been received wholesome in any part of the world and Kenya is not an exception. The turn around comes if publics are adequately informed. And from the article, this is the route NEP Committee wants to take. There is nothing like the power of COMMUNICATION. Go for it!

  6. Rugut,

    Ever heard of flexblue?

    Consider the Flexblue – a small nuclear reactor design in development by a few French companies. This one could see market in the coming decade like many small reactor designs, but this particular one would be underwater. The modules would produce 50 MW to 250 MW of electricity each and could be grouped together. They would be 60 m to 100 m underwater “a few km” offshore. Think about that, this image shows a generating station sufficient to power a city like Mombasa. See details at.


  7. To demonstrate its seriousness the Ministry of Energy via the Nuclear Electricity Project (NEP) Committee and in collaboration with the University of Nairobi and the National Council of Science and Technology is offering fifteen (15) Master of Science Scholarships to eligible Kenyans to pursue the Master of Nuclear Science offered by the Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology at the University of Nairobi. Another milestone.

  8. I expect the lead scientists and especially engineers to come up with an equally strong counter accident mechanism which should easily and fully stop any any unsafe nuclear activity whenever a natural calamity occurs and this brings the idea of using the blessings of the deep seas (or under seas) to locate such plants and hence could make it more manageable to make a safe landing or complete destruction of isotopes or whatever matter that was producing radiation in case of a leak/accident? what of a complete self destruction in such instances? please come up with fail proof safeties first before giving us the great hope. and in this case, do we need a plant for @ country or countries can pool together to gather resources since these plants can run several countries especially in Africa at a go…thanks

  9. This is the way to go for the rest of Africa.


    • Joy Ojey…..your argument makes me remember Germany. once while there some acquaintance remarked how pleasant it was to live in Kenya where elephants and other wild life live side by side with human beings. When I offered that they take some of the elephants (during winter they could use part of the excess 120,000 MW they were producing to keep the elephants warm in giant stadiums specially constructed) and in return they transfer the technology to our young who are busy migrating to towns (imagine Nairobi has electrification rate of 47% while rural Kenya is below 2% and average electrification for Kenya is 15%) so that we boost our electricity from then less than 1,200 MW to above 40,000 MW! It will be nice when candles will power industries and run our computers so that we communicate…it will be some romantic time, candles in the office, candle dinner and candles at night lighting our streets and houses?

  11. Dr Beatrice Amugune

    This is a project that is long overdue.
    There is no need to keep complaining about insufficient energy (=high cost) and at the same time become jittery about waste disposal or siting of the project. Kenya has the appropriate legislation in place to take care of any eventualities.

    David, with the leadership at the Kenya NEP, there is no fear BUT just anxiety for the delivery. Best regards.

  12. Our Constitution affirms the sovereignty of Kenyan people. We do recognize that the public are the main shareholders of the nuclear power programme. Once the established post of Director for Publicity and Advocacy is populated adequately heavy consultation with the Kenyan public will be accelerated. The creation of Counties will ensure an exciti g time in the near future when Governors, Senators and the traditional leaders i.e. MPs etc will be present. Devolution of power should result in Counties competing to host nuclear power plants. The future will be better with the youth (90% of Kenya’s population is below 50, and 45% is below 15 years)! It is the youth who will propel the nuclear program.

  13. Very Insightful, I can only wish the NEP committee the best in this huge mandate, a lot needs to be done though to educate the public on the pros and cons of nuclear energy and the direction that the govt of Kenya is taking towards the implementation of this project.

  14. Enlightening,

  15. That was quite an incisive overview about the future of nuclear energy in Kenya from the Secretary to NEP committee.For Kenya to move towards achieving its goals towards the the VISION 2030, venturing in Nuclear Energy is inevitable!!!There.s considerably high demand for energy both industrially and domestically, and coupled with the climatic changes and unreliable weather patterns being experienced in the world today,,this is the way to go!!!

    Remember energy is the driver of economic development and the social progress of any nation!!Thank you!!

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