Africa Energy: China, Russia and South Korea In Race To Build Kenya’s Nuclear Plant

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Written by Allan Akombo

In less than 24 hours this week Kenya signed two pacts on nuclear energy cooperation with South Korea and Russia, setting the stage for a dead-heat race against China to clinch the east Africa nation’s forthcoming nuclear energy development contract.

The first deal was in Moscow on May 30, 2016 where Russia’s state nuclear agency, Rosatom Deputy Director Nikolai Spasskiy and Deputy Head of the Kenyan Embassy to Russia Hillary N. Kyengo signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that involves the creation of a working group to identify peaceful nuclear projects and also continue consultations on the possibility of building the first nuclear power plant in Kenya.

A day later and thousands of miles away in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi host President Uhuru Kenyatta and Korean President Park Geun-Hye witnessed the signing of a nuclear corporation pact after they held bilateral talks.

The MOU on electric power and nuclear energy development was signed by Energy and Petroleum Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter and Korean Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Joo Hyunghwan.

“By signing this MOU, Kenya is set to benefit from Korea’s expertise in power generation. Korea has a unique model of power development that has ensured stable supply of electricity through continuous constructions and safe operations of power plants,” the Kenyan Presidency said in a statement.

In September last year, China signed a deal to enable Kenya “obtain expertise” from the Asian giant “by way of training and skills development, technical support in areas such as site selection for Kenya’s nuclear power plants and feasibility studies”, Daily Nation reported.

The three pacts place China, Russia and South Korea in an intense race to win Kenya’s nod for a contract to construct a nuclear plant in the east Africa’s largest economy.

First Nuclear Plant

Kenya plans to set up a first nuclear power plant with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts (MW) by 2025. This is expected to rise to a total of 4,000MW by 2033 making nuclear electricity a key component of the country’s energy mix which is projected will be about 19,000MW in total.

Kenya currently has an installed capacity of 2,298MW of energy from diverse sources such as hydro, geo thermal and thermal.

The presence South Korea’s Geun-Hye during the signing of the MoU in Nairobi signified a deep resolve of the Asia nation to clinch the Kenyan deal that is also eyed by China which recently signed an MoU the east Africa nation at the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong Province, southern China.

“Korea is already training 14 Kenyan students at the Kepco International Nuclear Graduate School (KINGS),” said President Kenyatta during the ceremony.

South Korea’s main power utility, Korea Electric Power Company (KEPCO) KEPCO is actively marketing OPR-1000 and APR1400 reactor model units in Middle East and North African countries, as well as Latin America.

The China General Nuclear Power Corporation operates third-generation HPR 1000 nuclear power plants. Russia offers a number of reactor designs, the most prominent currently being VVER-1200.

Barely two weeks ago, Rosatom said it plans to sign cooperation agreements with Kenya, Uganda and Zambia to lay the groundwork for an expanded presence in Sub-Saharan Africa beyond its planned bid to build nuclear power plants in South Africa.

Rosatom has voiced confidence in its ability to see off competition from China, France and South Korea in a planned South African tender to build a 9,600 megawatts (MW) nuclear power fleet in the continent’s most industrialized country.

It sees scope, however, for more deals across the region, from the building of plants to supplying reactor fuel.