GAEC sets up c’ttees on nuclear energy plant

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

The Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) has established a number of committees to begin feasibility work into the possibility of the country building a nuclear energy plant, the Director of National Nuclear Research Institute, Professor Shiloh K.D. Osae has said.

The committees, he said, among other things, were handling the siting of the facility and its economic viability.

“We are working on the selection of the kind of reactor that would benefit the country. One can produce energy alone and the other can produce energy and hydrogen, which is used in launching rockets.”

In the case of Ghana, he said the country could opt for one that could be used in desalinating sea water to meet the needs of coastal communities.

Prof. Osae, who spoke to the Daily Graphic on the fringes of the public lecture organised by the GAEC as one of the activities marking its 50th anniversary, said due diligence was necessary because “In the nuclear industry, we don't have the luxury to make mistakes.”

“The nuclear energy sector is a well regulated industry and, therefore, we need a lot of laws to be enacted before we start. These are international requirements for the implementation of the nuclear power programme in any country because of the issue of security and safety.”

The GAEC was established in 1963 by an Act of Parliament (Act 204) and later, Act 588 of 2000 to promote the development and utilisation of peaceful applications of nuclear and biotechnological techniques for economic and social advancement of Ghana. In pursuance of these objectives, the commission has established institutes and centres which carry out appropriate research activities.

After 50 years of its existence, the commission can boast of several achievements which include support for the construction of the Bui Dam, West Africa Gas Pipeline, the Aboadze thermal plant and installation of a radioactive reactor, with the support of Chinese partners. It is, however, operated and maintained by Ghanaian staff.

It is in the light of these achievements and many others that the GAEC is celebrating its golden jubilee.

Prof. Osae had earlier delivered a lecture on the theme: “ Strengthening Industrial Capacity through Nuclear Science and Technology: The role of GAEC”.

He said by 2020, the country would need 6,000MW of electricity to meet the demands of industry and for domestic use. That, he added, justified the need to introduce nuclear energy in the national energy mix.

Nuclear energy is capable of generating high-capacity energy at a much cheaper cost and also contribute immensely to climate change mitigation.

It  however, has disadvantages. Exposure to excessive doses of radiation may cause a variety of conditions including nausea, vomiting and loss of hair. Survivors also risk contracting diseases such as leukemia, lung cancer, thyroid cancer, breast cancer and cancers of other organs.

Given the risk and what has been described as Ghana's poor culture of maintenance, Prof. Osae stressed that “In the nuclear industry, we don't have the luxury to make mistakes. Somebody is always watching you from national security, the International Atomic Energy Agency and those who would supply us component parts would be here regularly. Without these, you will not even be given the permit to work with”.

He debunked the assertion that the country could not take good care of such a facility and stated that the VRA was a good example. If well motivated, there was no way they could not deliver.

Prof. J.H. Amuasi, a former Director-General of the GAEC, observed that over the years, even though the GAEC had contributed significantly to the country's growth, its contributions had not been recognised.