Ghana Nuclear Power Plant: Government's Long-Term Solution To The Country’s Energy Challenges Takes Shape

Ghana Nuclear Power Plant: Government's Long-Term Solution To The Country’s Energy Challenges Takes Shape

After decades of delay, Ghana is now on the move to site a nuclear power plant that would be connected to the national grid by 2030. In this feature, speaks to an expert at the energy ministry in charge of nuclear energy to ascertain the progress of Ghana's plan to add nuclear energy to its power generation mix.

Ghana is making steady progress towards building a nuclear power plant as part of the country's energy transition agenda and long-term solution to the country's electricity production challenges. Although this progress has taken very long, the belated progress is still significant for a number of reasons.

For decades, Ghana has been hit by severe electricity supply challenges that cost the economy millions. A 2017 policy paper by the Centre for Global Development (CDG) estimated that the country loses an average of $2.1 million in loss of production every day due to electricity supply challenges.

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Ghana's nuclear power plant agenda takes shape
Cooling tower of a nuclear reactor (L) and a portrait of an engineer at a plant (stock image). Source: Getty Images.
Source: Getty Images

Another major problem in Ghana's energy sector is the fluctuations in electricity tariffs charged to power consumers. In May 2023, Ghana raised electricity tariffs by 18.36% for the second quarter of 2023, adding to an almost 30% increase in the first quarter. The rising and fluctuating electricity cost, according to experts, is due to the country’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels and hydropower for energy generation.

But perhaps the most significant reason the progress of Ghana's nuclear power agenda is exciting is that it fits well within the global energy transition campaign.

Ghana is among the few African countries conscientiously moving away from coal, fossil and other harmful energy and towards cleaner energy sources like nuclear and solar.

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Progress of Ghana's nuclear power plant

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Since the 1960s when Ghana mulled over nuclear plants as a stable source of power, it has only recently made a critical move towards achieving that plan. Already, a location for the siting for the country's first nuclear power plant has been identified, although authorities say the location remains a top secret at the present time.

Deputy Director in charge of Nuclear and Alternative Energy at the Ministry of Energy Dr Robert Sogbadji has said Ghana is currently in a position to get a vendor for the first nuclear power plant.

"We have engaged vendor countries and we are on the verge of narrowing to approve one country and technology for our first nuclear power plant," Dr Sogbadji told during an exclusive interview.

Dr Sogbadji also disclosed that Nuclear Power Ghana (NPG), the entity that would become the eventual owner and operator of Ghana's first nuclear power plant, has gotten the approval to acquire the preferred site to host the first nuclear power plant.

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"This process to acquire the site for the plant was rigorous and involved zoning and obtaining scientific data that support the siting of the nuclear power plant in that particular locality," he said.

Dr Sogbadji explained that the energy ministry, the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission and Nuclear Power Ghana, are in constant collaboration to ensure timelines are met.

Capacity of Ghana's upcoming first nuclear power plant

Dr Sogbadji further disclosed that Ghana is envisaging that the upcoming power plant would have a capacity between 1,000 to 2,000 Megawatts (MW) of electricity.

"We expect the plant to be connected to the national grid by which time we would have built enough installed capacity for the grid to be able to take about 2000MW of electricity from nuclear," he told
Dr Robert Sogbadji has said Ghana's nuclear power plant should be connected to the national grid by 2030.
Deputy Director in charge of Nuclear and Alternative Energy at the Ministry of Energy Dr Robert Sogbadji. Source: Facebook/@GAECGH
Source: UGC

Data on the latest demand and supply outlook for the energy sector shows that the expected capacity from the nuclear plant would do well to augment the current thermal and hydro sources of power.

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For the past five years, Ghana’s system peak demand has been increasing at an annual growth rate of 10.3%. The system peak demand in 2020 was 3,090 MW, which was about 10.2% more than the 2019 system peak demand.

The energy ministry's Dr Sogbadji said the prospects for the upcoming nuclear energy plant are exciting because nuclear remains one of the cheapest sources of electricity because it is a base load.

He said the nuclear power plant will diversify Ghana's energy mix and contribute significantly to cheaper tariffs for electricity.

"Akosombo hydroelectric dam, which is currently our base load, needs to be supported with additional clean baseload technology. It is presently woefully inadequate for the requirement of our energy mix. So that is why we also have thermal power plants which are heavily dependent on gas. But gas is also a finite energy source and if we don't take care we will be importing a lot of gas," Dr Sogbadji underscored the importance of the nuclear power plant.

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Does Ghana have the technical expertise to run a nuclear plant?

In terms of technical expertise to run the upcoming nuclear plant, Ghana scores high marks. Since 1994 Ghana through the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) has operated a small research reactor supplied by China.

But importantly, the GAEC and the University of Ghana established the School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences (SNAS) in 2006 to train nuclear scientists.

The Ghana Atomic Energy Commission is an agency under the ministry of environment, science and technology.
A huge sculpture at the entrance of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, an agency under the ministry of environment, science and technology. Source: Facebook/@/GAECGH
Source: Facebook

According to Dr Sogbadji, Ghana has for years been building a solid human resource base to run the nuclear plant.

"We train people both in Ghana and abroad but as you know, every plant comes with specialised personnel; so as we construct, there is a period where a team will be undergoing human resource training for that particular type of technology [adopted for the nuclear power plant]," he said.

He added that while Ghana may not have a lot of nuclear engineers, they are not the only personnel needed to run the power plant.

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He explained that Ghana's long experience with managing hydro and thermal power plants means that electrical engineers, plumbers and mechanical engineers among others who are equally critical for the nuclear power plant are already available in abundance.

The future looks bright for Ghana's nuclear energy power plant because Ghana has demonstrated political will in the last few years to join South Africa as the second country generating significant megawatts through nuclear.

In September 2022, President Nana Akufo-Addo officially approved the inclusion of nuclear power into the country’s power generation mix.

He stated that the announcement, technically known as the National Position, satisfied one of the key 19 infrastructure issues specified in the IAEA’s Milestones Approach.

Ghana’s power supply situation and fears about the return of Dumsor

Meanwhile, reported in a separate story that the rampant unannounced power cuts in large areas of the country a few months ago prompted concerns about the return of dumsor.

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Experts are also worried about what they say is the country's inability to meet the growing demand for electricity consumption.

But the reaction from the Energy Ministry and available data show that while the unannounced power cuts are legitimate sources of concern, they do not suggest that dumsor is back.

Ghana bans importation of second-hand TV sets, fridges and 17 other electrical appliances

Also, reported that the Energy Commission announced new regulations that ban the importation of 19 electrical appliances deemed substandard.

The regulations came into force on November 2, 2022, however, the Commission said it will allow for a one-year grace period to allow for market adjustment.

The policy, the Commission explained in a statement on Tuesday, January 31, 2023, is to prevent the excess energy demand that these second-hand imported electrical appliances put on Ghana.

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