Africa Needs Nuclear Power to Propel Economic Development and Eliminate Poverty-Will Ghana Take the Lead?
Africa’s only nuclear powerplant in Koeberg South Africa. (Courtesy cbn.co.za)
December 18, 2020
Ghana has correctly focused on obtaining energy from nuclear power to realize their ambition of becoming an industrialized economy. It is worth remembering that under President Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana had, I believe, the first test nuclear reactor on the continent. Seventeen African nations are in various stages of planning for nuclear energy stations in their countries. The energy-flux density of nuclear power is superior to all other forms of energy, plus it is not dependent on wind, water, or sunlight. I encourage all African nations to move rapidly to harness the power of the Sun on earth through nuclear energy. The most complete means for African nations to break free from the legacy of colonialism, is to design nuclear powered manufacturing-industrialized economies; ending poverty and hunger.
Nuclear Energy in Africa – Lessons from Ghana
The Republic of Ghana has a long and complicated history with nuclear energy dating back to the country’s immediate post-independence period. Despite being derailed at multiple points on a long, uneven journey, recent developments around Ghana’s nuclear plans provide hope and lessons for the rest of Africa.
Ghana has experienced recurring periods of unstable electricity supply in 1983, 1997-1998; 2003; 2006-2007 and again from 2011-2017. Domestic natural gas and oil reserves provide some relief, but projections indicate that these will dry up by 2045. The National Electrification Scheme (NES) aimed for universal electricity access by 2020; however this is more realistically attainable by 2022.
Access to electricity in Ghana is fairly widespread with the electricity access rate at 85% in 2019. However, problems with the country’s conventional sources of electricity signal that the time is right for Ghana to pursue its nuclear aspirations alongside other renewable energy generation options to achieve the twin goals of economic development and consistent electricity supply.
By 2057, Ghana hopes to have a highly industrialised economy. It has singled out nuclear power as a key vehicle of development. Ghana’s nuclear ambitions started with the establishment of the Kwabenya Nuclear Reactor Project in 1961. Derailed by consecutive military coups d’état, the project remains uncompleted. Commitment to the establishment of a functioning, effective nuclear power programme from government has also been inconsistent.
Yet recent developments provide hope. The return of nuclear energy to the country’s development agenda is accelerated by the need for a stable electricity supply. In 2015 the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry out a ‘Phase 1 Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review Mission (INIR)’ in the country.
INIR evaluations represent an important step in the establishment of a nuclear energy programme in any country and ensure that expert decisions guide these highly technical projects. INIR evaluations are based on the IAEA’s ‘Milestones in the Development of a National Infrastructure for Nuclear Power‘ document, which outlines three development phases of a nuclear power programme.
First phase reviews assess the readiness of a country to embark on the road to nuclear power and take place at the decision-making stage. Second phase reviews follow directly from the first and entail putting into place concrete actions after the decision to go nuclear has been taken. In the final phase, the nuclear power programme is implemented.
Not long after the GAEC initiated contact with the IAEA, the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Organisation (GNPPO), (https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/iaea-reviews-progress-of-ghanas-nuclear-infrastructure-development), which is responsible for overseeing the programme, provided a self-evaluation report. Acting on both the initial communication as well as the report submitted by the GNPPO, the IAEA sent an expert team to Ghana in January 2017 in order to carry out the INIR Mission.
The team determined that Ghana had sufficiently progressed in order to begin preparation for the second phase of the project and another Review Mission. Before progressing to this next phase; however, the evaluation team suggested prioritising further research and bolstering of Ghana’s legal framework.
Establishing a nuclear power project seems logical for a country that is no stranger to the peaceful application of nuclear technology. Ghana has successfully operated a 30kW nuclear research reactor for more than two decades. The Ghana Research Reactor-1 (GHARR-1) is one of 12 research reactors on the African continent and plays a vital role in the education and training of personnel to oversee its emerging nuclear energy programme. GHARR-1 is also relied on for research , particularly the treatment of nuclear waste and environmental safety, and irradiation projects. Ghana also relies on nuclear technology for administering radiotherapy and other nuclear medicine applications.
The energy supply situation in the rest of Africa is not very different. Power outages are regular occurrences in much of Africa and according to the IAEA, more than half of the population of sub-Saharan Africa remains disconnected from the grid. Nuclear power represents an alternative and reliable source of electricity.
Excluding South Africa, where nuclear power is already established, the IAEA notes that nearly one third of the countries that have approached it for assistance in establishing a nuclear power programme are African. Apart from Ghana, these include Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan. According to the IAEA, the nuclear option is also under consideration in Algeria and Tunisia as well as Uganda and Zambia.
If the road to nuclear energy in Ghana is anything to go by, it is a telling example to other African countries of the commitment necessary, as well as the importance of political stability and political will in implementing a project that holds vast potential for economic and human development.
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com
March 24, 2019
Celebrating Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana: Observations from Cape Coast by Donielle DeToy
Please accept an article from my wife, as my belated contribution to the March 6, anniversary of Ghana’s independence from its colonial master, Great Britain.
Akwaaba: You Are Welcome in Ghana by Donielle DeToy
I have just completed seven weeks of my teaching internship at Mary Queen of Peace Catholic School in Cape Coast, Ghana. Living in the tropical region of Cape Coast and learning about Ghanaian culture was a unique and transformative experience that I shall always cherish. I loved everything about Ghana, the culture, people, climate- Cape Coast was welcoming and beautiful.
This is not my first adventure onto the large continent of Africa. In 2011 and 2012, I traveled to Sudan visiting Khartoum, Darfur, and the Nuba Mountains. In 2014, I had the honor of accompanying my husband to Ndjamena, Chad. He is a scientific adviser to the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC). We attended a conference addressing the complex dangers of Lake Chad evaporating and made proposals for workable solutions. We then explored Ethiopia both Addis Abba and the Rift Valley region. Of all my travels to Africa, Ghana was the absolute best!
There is a phrase the Ghanaian population speak when greeting visitors, “Akwaaba” which means “you are welcome” or “happy to have you visit.” Ghanaians definitely “Akwaaba” visitors and make you feel very relaxed. That welcoming spirit shines in every classroom at Mary Queen of Peace Catholic School.
If you don’t like warm weather or tropical creatures, you won’t like Ghana, but I loved it! Ghana is close to the equator and the sun sets very quickly. Cape Coast is on the ocean and it is often hot and humid. However, there is a cool and refreshing breeze throughout the night.
As for the tropical creatures- I shared my room with 4 (probably more) Geckos and no they don’t have funny Australian accents. These creatures are EVERYWHERE!! Outside, inside, under, over, above, absolutely everywhere. I learned to live with them (I didn’t really have a choice). I was outnumbered AND in that tropical climate there is an advantage of having roommates who eat bugs. I gave some of them names which personified them and discovered where they “live” within our house and school. There are two other common lizards in this region, the first is a slower moving Agama Lizard, there is one that lives on the school campus, he is nicknamed “Charlie.” The other managed to evade my camera- it is called a Monitor Lizard; my students call them “dragons” probably because they can weigh up to 200 pounds.
Are there cultural differences?? Absolutely. One of the amusing and challenging tasks was trying to explain winter temperatures, snow, and ice to my kindergarten age school children. They have never experienced temperatures below 70 degrees and only know two seasons; raining and dry. I taught a unit on weather and showed pictures and videos of Maryland’s bitter cold, but it was still too abstract. Finally, I made a huge block of ice and asked each student to hold her/his hand on it for as long as possible. They loved it!! Although most could not keep their hands on the ice for more than 30 seconds.
My students were very respectful and greeted us by our first names, but with the pre-fix “Teacher”, so I am “Teacher Donielle.” Education is universal, all children love to laugh, discover, and learn. The more fun I can have teaching my lessons, the better their learning experience.
In Ghana, Friday is Africa dress day, everyone wears traditional African attire. I decided to join the fun and wore a lovely African dress. All the teachers at my school were very happy that I joined in the tradition. I believe when visiting (and teaching) in another country one needs to participate in cultural activities. The teachers appreciated it and my students loved the fact that I got dressed up for their special day.
One of the saddest moments was my visit to the infamous slave castles/dungeons. I toured two different ones. The first, was in Elmina, this is the largest slave castle, built by the Portuguese in 1482. It had been sacred land for the people, but the European empires were callous and erected a hideous structure of death over this revered area. This “castle” was used as an export point for African men and women for over 400 years. The brutality in which the Europeans treated the people of Africa is revolting and horrifying. One tour guide estimated that over 20 million slaves were shipped from Africa. The other Castle was in Cape Coast. Our guide briefly locked us in one of the dungeons…the stench of blood and death still lingered, 200 years later. Both castles have a “door of no return” this is a narrow opening where the slaves where forced onto a ship leaving their homeland forever.
During a brief stay in Accra prior to my departure, I visited the museum and mausoleum of Kwame Nkrumah. He was the founding father of Ghana, achieving independence from the British empire in 1957. He was also a key component in the creation of the OAS- Organization of African States. I was struck at the strong connection between Nkrumah and America. The museum had dozens of artifacts from his 1939-1944 studies at University of Pennsylvania and Lincoln University. During his lifetime he reflected a deep understanding of the true meaning of American System of Economics. This is most evident in his speech at the founding conference of the OAS, which called for a commitment to a scientific and infrastructure renaissance in Ghana and Africa, echoing both Franklin Roosevelt and John F Kennedy.
After my first week in Cape Coast, I thought the biggest challenge and most difficult adjustment was not being plugged into the internet or access to emails 24 hours a day. But as I prepared for my departure, I realized the most difficult task was saying good-bye. The school theme for Mary Queen of Peace is Shine Forever, and the School Sisters of Notre Dame, students, staff, and community shall Shine Forever in my heart.