Dr. Stephen Yamoah, Executive Director of Nuclear Power Ghana

Ghana would soon join the hosts of countries across the globe with its first Nuclear Power Plant.

The West African nation’s quest to use nuclear technology for power generation dates back in the 1960’s when the country’s first President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah established the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission to spearhead the Nuclear agenda.

Unfortunately, the idea was stillbirth and abandoned until 2008 when a Cabinet decision to include nuclear in the country’s electricity generation mix was taken to help curb the national perennial power crisis.

Government’s bid to provide a solution to the country’s 10-year cycle of power crisis coupled with the need for an alternative baseload plant established a nuclear energy programme implementing and coordination body, known as the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Organisation (GNPPO).

In accordance with the framework advocated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for Nuclear Power Infrastructure Development, GNPPO developed a 3 Phase roadmap for Ghana’s initiative.

The country has since 2018 established an Owner/Operator entity, the Nuclear Power Ghana (NPG) for its 1st Nuclear Power Plant and has successfully completed the first Phase of the Nuclear Programme.

NPG will undertake requisite feasibility studies and activities required in the project development and construction phases of the Nuclear Power Programme. Currently, Ghana is at the second Phase of the Nuclear agenda.

In an exclusive interview with energynewsafrica.com, the current Executive Director of NPG, Dr. Yamoah lauded the Board of Directors and his 2 predecessors for activities undertaken in Phase 1.

He mentioned that, under the Phase 2, NPG is tasked to develop institutions, build expertise/capabilities, liaise with, and manage stakeholders, comply with regulatory requirements, identify and select preferred site, negotiate with potential vendors, implement and further develop all necessary infrastructures studied and planned for in Phase 1.

Dr. Yamoah revealed that, four candidate sites have been identified, explaining further that processes are currently ongoing to select a preferred one among them, for the country’s first Nuclear Power Plant.

Critics of Ghana’s nuclear agenda have raised issues of time involved in establishing a Nuclear Plant, cost, safety and management of nuclear waste in view of the four major nuclear power incidents; namely: the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (2011), the Chernobyl disaster (1986), the Three Mile Island accident (1979) and the SL-1 accident (1961).

Responding to these concerns, Dr. Yamoah emphasised that even though each accident had a remote cause, there have been tremendous design improvements in nuclear reactors since those incidents, plus new and strict regulatory requirements.

“One beautiful thing about scientists and engineers is that when an incident happens, they take opportunity, even though it is not expected, to understand how and why it happened and ensure that it never happen again. So in the wake of the Fukushima incident, what most nuclear power plant operators in Japan and other parts of the world did was to shut down most plants. And then once the understanding came, they put in place measures to ensure that such a thing does not happen again,’’ he explained.

In a bid to school those who have no inkling as what really caused the Fukushima nuclear power accident, Dr. Yamoah said: “What happened at Fukushima was a combination of earthquake and Tsunami. So first the earthquake happened and all the national grid went off. The Nuclear Power Plant operators all over world have what we call emergency power systems. So with the national grid going off in Fukushima within seconds the emergency diesel generators came online and everything was restored to normal. And then after some few minutes the tsunami came and knocks off all the emergency diesel generators and so there was no power supply to the active systems to provide cooling to the system.”

Dr. Yamoah said, following the incidents, regulations have been established that puts responsibility on the nuclear power operators to ensure that emergency diesel generators are placed at elevations higher than the environment of the nuclear power plan.

“New reactor designs (Gen III and III+) use both active and passive systems and that makes it safer than before,” he added.

Although he admitted that Nuclear Power Plant takes a number of years to construct, he explained that the long period is due to the intensive planning, implementation of carefully selected processes and the exhaustive checks and balance required before the plant becomes operational.

Dr. Yamoah stated that some countries have decided to be or become nuclear energy-free by decommissioning their Nuclear Power Plants after it has served their needs successfully. Majority of the plants have almost reached their life span. In all these countries as we speak, they’re still generating electricity from Nuclear Power Plant and have developed their industries. Other Nuclear Power operating countries are building new plants and there are new comer countries on board operating their first commercial Nuclear Plants.

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