US to establish Small Modular Nuclear Reactor Regional Training Hub in Ghana
Ghana has been chosen by the United States for the establishment of a Small Modular Nuclear Reactor (SMR) regional training hub and centre of excellence for the sub-Saharan Africa region.
The country was selected due to its strong cooperation, leadership and consistency in training nuclear engineers.
The new US commitment is to better position the country to develop a skilled nuclear workforce for the Africa region consistent with the highest international standards of nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation.
It comes with a $1.75 million funding support which will be aimed at expanding university partnerships and academic exchanges to prepare the country to serve as a regional training hub of nuclear power engineers, technicians, scientists and operators.
The funding is provided under the Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of SMR Technology (FIRST) capacity-building programme.
The FIRST programme offers capacity-building support to partner countries and explores the potential for small modular reactors to meet their clean energy needs.
The Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the US Department of State Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN), Ann Ganzer, announced this at a two-day FIRST Africa Regional Conference in Accra, yesterday.
It was co-hosted by the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC).
The conference was geared towards educating officials in sub-Saharan Africa to better understand the role of civil nuclear energy, particularly SMRs and microreactors in meeting their clean energy needs and climate goals in a safe and secure manner.
It brought together energy and nuclear power experts, academia and non-governmental organisations to discuss how nuclear energy can play a role in African countries' overall energy mix and the importance of workforce development.
The participants were from Ghana, Canada, Japan, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, the Republic of Korea, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Regional training hub
Ms Ganzer said the US’s commitment to establish the hub was another step to deepen civil nuclear cooperation and support Ghana's goal of being a first mover in Africa.
She said the partnership would assist the country and other like-minded countries in the region in moving towards clean, affordable, safe and secure energy sources.
“The United States is committed to supporting the use of innovative clean energy technologies to power global decarbonisation efforts.
“We are happy to partner with Ghana and we think the regional training partnership will help with the energy transition in Ghana,” she stated.
She mentioned that Kenya and Ghana have been outstanding FIRST programme partners in the sub-Saharan Africa region and continue to receive support in the form of training, technical collaboration and capacity-building activities.
The Manager, Executive Office of Nuclear Power Ghana (NPG), Daniel Wordson, said the country’s national energy policy, among others, focused on establishing strategic bilateral partnerships with nuclear power countries and relevant institutions.
He said institutions such as the Ghana Nuclear Institute and the NRA had been established to handle the technical aspect of nuclear power and to educate the public to address concerns on nuclear power in the energy mix.
He stated that SMRs in Ghana's Nuclear Energy Plan was the most practical modern technology to facilitate the management of Ghana’s energy resources to create wealth sustainably.
He added that it was critical for the country to work to meet future base load demand, as it had been estimated that the population of the country would have an additional 40 million by 2070.
The Executive Secretary, African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE), Enobot Agboraw, called for a multilateral approach by African countries to pool resources to develop nuclear energy together.
“Let’s be one country in the development of nuclear power,” he entreated.
The Director-General of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA), Nii Kwashie Allotey, expressed the commitment of the NRA to intensify public education and engagement on nuclear power and regulate civilian use of radioactive materials.