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Opinions of Sunday, 14 July 2013

Columnist: Badu, Julius

Addressing our electricity shortfalls

OPTIONS FOR ADDRESSING GHANA’S ELECTRICITY SHORTFALL AND CASE AGAINST NUCLEAR POWER.

Julius Badu

Melbourne, Australia

May 2013

Abstract.

This article discusses the recent agreement between Ghana and Russia to develop and build a Nuclear Power Station in Ghana. It presents the factors which prompted the Ghana Government to resort to this course of action. It identifies that there is a significant gap between Ghana’s electricity requirements and its present generating capacities. Options for addressing the gap between supply and demand and also how the shortfall of 4000MW could be achieved from renewable energy resources are discussed. It recommends an energy mix strategy to meet the shortfall.

The recommended energy mix strategy required to meet the shortfall is a combination of energy from renewable resources and Fossil Fuels. As part of this strategy, Fossil Fuel’s contribution to the mix would progressively be reduced as additional plants from renewable energy resources are introduced. It recommends that Fossil Fuels should be conserved predominantly for transportation and other sectors of the economy. It argues strongly against electricity generated from Uranium, (i.e. Nuclear Power) as it has the potential to cause cancer and expose the present Ghanaians and the future generations to unacceptable risks. The author’s recommendation is based on data from several nuclear plant disasters and the recent Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan.

The author expects to influence Ghana’s decision making authorities to review and reconsider the agreement to develop Nuclear Power with Russia. It strongly recommends that if Nuclear Power is inevitable then it must be presented to the Ghanaians in a form of a referendum to allow the people to decide accordingly.

Julius Badu 2013 | Addressing our electricity shortfalls page 3 of 18 Table of contents.

Background.

The article stems from how horrified I was to learn that Ghana (Minister of Energy and Petroleum) had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Russia (ROSATOM) to develop a Nuclear Power Station in our dear country. This MOU I believe evolved from a decision Ghana Government, made in 2008 to build a Nuclear Plant by 2018. The following factors were behind the decision:

• Sudden realization that there was 400 megawatts shortfall in electricity supply.

• Increase in crude oil price and delays in the gas supply from Nigeria. The above factors together with our over dependence on hydro power have brought insecurity into the general electricity supply system. Insecurity of supply is exacerbated by low water level at the dams during drought conditions, hence the call for a power generation mix strategy to be developed. This article targets Ghana’s elected leaders, parliamentarians, other Ghanaian authorities in decision making positions and the general public as its audience. With this in mind, the article has consciously been written using non-technical language while ensuring that the technical nature of the material is not distorted.

This article is not intended to reflect negatively on the vision of our late President Kwame Nkrumah to develop nuclear capabilities in Ghana nor the competence of the Russians. The intention is to highlight the catastrophic nature of the chosen technology when other viable options exist.

My aim here is to influence Ghana’s decision making authorities and others involved in the MOU.

Ghana’s electricity generating capacity is presently 2000 megawatts. It requires 6000 megawatts by 2015 to allow for growth. Nuclear Power is an energy option that Ghana could explore to meet the shortfall, however, considering the alternatives it should be considered as a VERY LAST OPTION. The options available for meeting the shortfall are using either renewable or non-renewable resources.

Renewable energy resources are those that are continually replenished such as sunlight, wind, rain, waves etc. The article excludes the generation of electricity from hydro (water), i.e. the Akosombo dam as this is already a well-known and established resource in the country.

Julius Badu 2013 | Addressing our electricity shortfalls page 5 of 18 Non-renewable resources are those that are finite and are also consumed much faster than nature can create them. Examples of these are Fossil Fuels (petroleum, and natural gas) and Uranium.

Three diverse energy options will be discussed in the order below:

1. Solar.

2. Fossil Fuel (Oil and Gas).

3. Nuclear.

The above is ranked to represent the order in which potential for its development exists in Ghana in terms of the availability of the raw material required. Although several issues are important, each option will be limited to a little over a page and will only cover the following;

• General Overview of the Technology.

• Discussion.

• Advantages and Disadvantages.

• Conclusions/Recommendations.

Julius Badu 2013 | Addressing our electricity shortfalls page 6 of 18 Solar Energy.

General Overview of the Technology.

Solar Power is electricity generated using sunlight. In its basic form, the equipment required are a solar panel and an inverter. The panel is installed facing the sun and it converts the sunlight into electricity. The inverter transforms the electricity for use at home. This type of electricity generation should be attractive to Ghana because sunshine is abundant.

The complete Solar Power system could be installed either in an open field or on the roof at home, as shown in the sketch. At home, any electricity that is not used could be fed back into the grid for use by others.

Every household therefore becomes a “small electricity generator”. Imagine how satisfying it would be for us, in our own little way; help to solve the power outage problems we often experience.

Julius Badu 2013 | Addressing our electricity shortfalls page 7 of 18 What is more, residents in remote villages, which are far away from any grid, could potentially enjoy electricity. Malaysia, another tropical country, has stand-alone solar power systems for remote areas - a strategy for rural electrification. It is more practical and considerably cheaper than being supplied through the grid and Ghana should adopt this. Discussion. Mauritania has taken a lead role in the development of Solar Power in Africa with its 15 megawatts (MW) plant. In December 2012, Blue Energy, United Kingdom announced that it would build an 115MW solar plant that could provide electricity to 100,000 homes in Ghana by 2015. This announcement was welcomed. Additional solar plants of this nature should be encouraged, at the expense of Nuclear Power, in order to reduce the stress on Ghana’s energy needs.

The Japanese Ambassador to Ghana, Naoto Nikai had urged Ghanaian authorities to invest in solar energy during the inauguration of the 315 kilowatt Solar Power project at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Accra. The Solar Plant recently inaugurated in Navrongo by our President John Mahama is also welcomed and this it is a step in the right direction.

The author had lived in Invercargill, New Zealand, one of the southernmost cities in the world; a very cold place with very little sunshine. The next stop south of Invercargill is the Antarctica, South Pole. However it was pleasing to note that some homes in Invercargill had all their energy requirements met by simple solar panels.

Based on 2003 figures, 4500 homes in Ghana have Solar Power. This contribution from Solar Power is only 0.2 percent of the total energy supply. If a total of one million homes, schools, industries and others in Ghana are encouraged to install 2kW solar panels each, the output would be 2000MW. The remaining 2000MW shortfall could be obtained from solar farms supplemented by electricity from oil and gas.

The fully installed cost of a 2kW solar panel is $3000 (Australian); that is approximately 6,000 Ghana Cedis. An open field solar farm of 2000MW capacity will be more cost effective. However, given the choices, Ghanaians would be supportive of the drive to install solar panels at their homes. The current trend shows that the cost of installing Solar Power is easing and Ghana should take advantage of it now. It is predicted that the market average for a 2kW module would cost around $1000 by 2020. The International Energy Agency has also speculated that 60% of the world’s energy could be obtained from Solar Power by 2060.

India has an ambitious target of achieving 22,000 MW of solar capacity by 2022. This too is a challenge for Ghana. It is true that although solar energy is abundant in Ghana, it does not presently have the ability to tap it for cost effective use. Julius Badu 2013 | Addressing our electricity shortfalls page 8 of 18 The technology exists and the human resources are also in abundance. It is now a question of motivation and the creation of suitable conditions and environment by government for entrepreneurs to take up the opportunity. However, I am sure there are Ghanaian Professionals out there willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work to meet the challenge to provide energy for Ghana’s development. “YES WE CAN”. Going forward, though we need to take cognizance of some of the advantages and mostly the disadvantages listed below. Advantages.

• Sunshine, which is “the fuel for the solar plant”, is abundant in Ghana.

• It is a safe and clean form of energy as it does not pollute the environment.

• It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. • The plants do not have any moving parts as such they are not as maintenance intensive as the others. They operate without noise and they do not release an offensive smell. • Additional solar panels could be easily added in the future to allow for growth. • Ghana is able to provide electricity to remote villages, which are far away from any grid and areas where the supply of fuel and spare parts for generators pose numerous challenges.

• There is the potential to create jobs in solar power related industries and offer other benefits. • The cost of electricity from solar is stable as it is not subjected to the increasing prices of crude oil.

• It does not incur any transportation costs as sunlight is everywhere. Disadvantages.

• The Solar Power equipment would have to be purchased from overseas. This disadvantage though, provides an excellent opportunity for Ghana to build the Solar Panels locally. Work would subsequently be created for Ghanaians to replace the panels as they age or when an upgrade is required. Conclusions/Recommendations. • Ghana has the potential to derive significant portion of its electricity capacity from sunshine especially in a situation where demand is rapidly outstripping supply. • After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Japanese Government passed a bill to subsidize electricity from renewable energy sources. Solar panel sales in Japan rose by 30% to 1,296 megawatts soon after and plans are now in place to build the panels

Julius Badu 2013 | Addressing our electricity shortfalls page 9 of 18 in Japan. Other countries like Australia, India etc. have a similar incentive scheme in place.

• This type of incentive, if adopted by Ghana Government would allow individual homes to generate power using solar panels thereby reducing the stress on Ghana’s energy needs.

• Ghana government should offer incentives and rebates to encourage the uptake of Solar Power by households, schools, businesses and commercial enterprises.

• Ghana must emulate the lead role taken by Mauritania instead of pursuing Nuclear Power,

• Electricity generation from solar is highly recommended as a vital energy mix strategy for Ghana because of the numerous benefits it provides. Julius Badu 2013 | Addressing our electricity shortfalls page 10 of 18 Fossil Fuel (Oil and Gas).

General Overview of the Technology.

This option will not be discussed in great detail as it is also well known and established in the country. It is based on using oil or gas to generate electricity. Most Ghanaians are familiar with the small scale domestic stand-by generators which are common in the affluent areas of many of our cities and towns.

The recent significant commercial addition of this type to the grid is the Sunon Asogli Thermal Power Plant in the Kpone-Tema area. It is a private sector gas-steam combine cycle power plant currently producing 200 megawatts of electricity.

It relies mainly on Oil and Gas for its fuel and was adversely affected when it had to shut down in the recent past because the gas pipeline which supplies the fuel was damaged. Discussion.

Oil and Gas required for this energy option have recently been discovered in commercial quantities in Ghana. The disadvantage with this option is that the quantity of each resource is finite and it will run out one day.

I understand from reliable sources that the available proven oil reserve in Ghana is expected to last for 20 years. Additionally the substantial gas reserves discovered recently can generate about 5800 MW for 20 years or 2900 MW for 40 years. Gas will therefore be insufficient for long term power needs if it is to be conserved for the transport sector. However these resources could provide a short term gap while other renewable sources like wind and waves are explored.

Apart from the need for the equipment to be obtained from overseas, it is noisy and pollutes the environment.

There are several Ghanaian’s available who are experts in generating electricity using this resource. This electricity generation option is recommended ahead of Nuclear power. However it has its pros and cons which I will touch on briefly. Julius Badu 2013 | Addressing our electricity shortfalls page 11 of 18 Advantages.

• Ghana has discovered Oil and Gas in commercial quantities and as such it has some control over the fuel. • There are suitably trained Ghanaian Professionals capable of managing these plants and make their experiences count. Disadvantages. • These plants are noisy, pollute the environment and they emit greenhouse gases, • They are affected by volatility in the price of Oil and Gas. • The fuel incurs transportation costs. • Ghana does not have full control over the fuel in the same way as it has over sunshine, • The associated equipment like Gas Turbines would have to be imported. • The fuel source is finite and it is non- renewable. Conclusions/Recommendations. This option is equally recommended for Ghana because it has discovered Oil and Gas in commercial quantities. However, we must take cognisance of the fact that the resource will run out one day. Electricity generation from Oil and Gas must be included in the energy mix strategy for Ghana as a short-term gap while other renewable sources are explored.

Julius Badu 2013 | Addressing our electricity shortfalls page 12 of 18 Nuclear Energy.

General Overview of the Technology.

During a nuclear reaction, Uranium which is the fuel used, releases tremendous amount of heat. A coolant extracts this heat and uses it to generate electricity. Because of the intensity of the heat released, huge amount of water is required for cooling. The reactor must therefore be sited in close proximity to where water is in abundance. The radioactive waste which remains is mainly stored at the reactor sites and this continues to accumulate across the world. Nuclear Power is unique as very large amount of energy is generated from a very small amount of fuel. However, its waste remains hazardous for about 1000 years and it needs to be isolated from the environment during this period. A current practice for handling radioactive waste is to cool it in a pool of water for about 5 years. It is shipped to Europe where Plutonium is extracted and the waste is returned to the original owner as the Europeans do not want the waste either. Plutonium is the most toxic element known to date.

Julius Badu 2013 | Addressing our electricity shortfalls page 13 of 18 Discussion.

Several minor earthquakes have been reported in Ghana. Odoglase a small village in the Eastern Region experienced an earthquake this week May 2013. Similar events were recorded in Accra, Takoradi Anomabu and other places in the past. The photos show the out pour of magma from the earth’s crust for an event in Anomabu.

These events have been linked to tectonic activity in the earth’s plate, which is halfway between Brazil and West Africa.

The coastal areas of Ghana would be the ideal location for a Nuclear Plant because freshwater is in abundance. However, the areas are vulnerable to earth tremor events because of their close proximity to a fault in the earth’s crust. Increased oil exploration will exacerbate these events. This condition has the potential to cause a Fukushima type of disaster in Ghana if the country adopts Nuclear Power. As recently as, May 2013, Fukushima reported that it was accumulating radioactive contaminated water at a rate of 400Tons/day. 250,000Tons have already been stored over 17 hectares of land and tanks are being built to store additional 700,000Tons. The total, which is approximately ONE MILLION TONS, contains a bone cancer causing radioactive material with a “half- life” of 29 years. The half-life is the time it takes for a radioactive material to decay and lose half of its radioactivity. The World Health Organization estimated that Japan’s baby cancer lifetime risk would increase by about 1%. Ghana is bordered on the east by Togo and on the west by Côte d’Ivoire. The total land area is about 230,940sq km with a coastline of about 539km. The coastal environment of Ghana is under severe pressure from human activities and developments.

With about 40% of the population living in coastal cities and environs, it is already evident that pressure is mounting on the coastal environment. The most identified driving forces include population pressures, manufacturing industries, oil and gas exploration and exploitation, transportation and tourism resulting in increased urbanization.

In the event of a nuclear disaster, millions of people living in these areas will be

adversely affected.

Julius Badu 2013 | Addressing our electricity shortfalls page 14 of 18 Deformities were reported amongst children born in the Middle East, where “depleted uranium shells” were used in the recent wars. Ghana does not need this complication in its development. We should be concerned about cancer epidemic and birth defects in our children and our future generations. The predominant tidal current speed (0.3m/sec) along Ghana’s coast is in the easterly direction. This current plays a significant part in the dispersal of suspended material in the area. The impact of any disaster along the coast would easily be felt by Togo, Benin and Nigeria in less than 5 days through water currents. Decisions on a suitable location for a Nuclear Plant along the coast must therefore require consultation with neighbouring countries that are also likely to be affected by the pollutants being conveyed towards the east.

Ghana would have no control over the supply of Uranium as it would have to be imported. Equipment for all the options discussed would have to be imported. The Solar Power option, however, lends itself to be locally manufactured and hence create sustainable work for Ghanaians.

In terms of human resources, there are capable Ghanaian Nuclear Scientists and Engineers available to run and manage the plant which is an advantage. These Professionals are doing excellent work in agriculture, medical health and other industrial applications. They should be encouraged to remain in these fields and this by no means reflects negatively on their capabilities. Advocates of nuclear energy state that fast reactors burn their fuels successfully. However, it is on record that even wastes from these reactors reach safe radiation levels in 300 years. Finland announced this week that it plans to bury its nuclear waste in tunnels 5 kilometres underground, but in the USA and elsewhere, such tunnels have been prevented because of safety concerns. As recently as, late May 2013, the Japanese Government had taken additional steps and ordered the Fukushima Nuclear Plant to freeze the soil around its crippled reactor to prevent groundwater from being contaminated with radioactivity. This technique has never being used before and obviously desperate times call for drastic action. Ghana does not need these complications as it develops.

According to The Japan Times, the Fukushima nuclear disaster changed the national debate over energy policy almost overnight by shattering the Government’s long-pitched safety myth about nuclear power. The crisis sparked anti-nuclear sentiment and a June 2011 Asahi Shimbun poll found that 74% answered “yes” to whether Japan should gradually decommission all 54 reactors and become nuclear free. A similar poll found that what had been growing acceptance of nuclear power in the United States was sharply eroded following this event with 43% approving and 50% Julius Badu 2013 | Addressing our electricity shortfalls page 15 of 18 disapproving of building new plants. Increased anti-nuclear sentiments were also reported in several countries like Germany, Spain, Switzerland, India, and Taiwan just to mention a few.

There has been a significant re-evaluation of existing nuclear power programs in many countries post Fukushima. Ghana should therefore exercise restraint and do further homework by engaging with the Japanese, Americans, Germans and several others before further consideration of this option.

Although Nuclear Plants adhere to strict policies and procedures and the likelihood of an accident occurring may be low, the consequences of such an event is catastrophic. The 1986 Chernobyl disaster was a catastrophic nuclear accident which took place in Ukraine, USSR. It started as a plant fire which resulted into an explosion. Large quantities of radioactive particles were released into the atmosphere spreading over Western USSR and Europe. I do understand that Ghana requires energy for development but the pros and cons for Nuclear Power as listed below clearly demonstrate that it is not suitable for Ghana at this stage.

Advantages.

• Nuclear Plants are known to produce virtually no air pollution.

• Typically these plants have low direct fuel costs.

• Ghanaian Nuclear Scientists and Engineers are abundant to run and manage the plants.

Disadvantages.

• Ghana would have no control over the fuel as it would have to be imported.

• The plants pose several health risks to people and threats to the environment extending as far as to Nigeria.

• There are unsolved problems associated with handling radioactive waste.

• The half-life of some radioactive nuclear waste range from 24,000 to about 16 Million years. Because of this, sophisticated treatments are required to isolate them from the environment.

• The reactors are complex machines where many things can and do go wrong,

• Many serious nuclear accidents have occurred.

• Nuclear plants require a huge amount of water for cooling and I would guess at this stage that for Ghana the plant would be located close to the coastline. Julius Badu 2013 | Addressing our electricity shortfalls page 16 of 18

• The potential for an earthquake event in Ghana is real and the interest in Nuclear which is coming on the hills of the Fukushima nuclear disaster is concerning. Conclusions/Recommendations. • Ghana is vulnerable to earthquakes. It must therefore review the MOU as the potential for a Fukushima type disaster in the country is real.

• The Fukushima disaster has renewed public support for the commercialization of renewable energy technologies of which Solar Power is one. Japanese government announced a dramatic change of direction in energy policy, promising to make the country nuclear-free by the 2030’s. It is therefore a backwards step for Ghana to pursue nuclear power now.

• India has an ambitious target of 22,000 MW of solar capacity by 2022. A single 3,000 MW Solar Power plant will go a long way to address Ghana’s shortfall of 4,000 MW. Solar Power plants are therefore recommended for Ghana instead of Nuclear Plants which have numerous disadvantages.

• Ghana should not be looking at Nuclear Power at this time because of the numerous reasons stated. Nuclear Power may be considered as the VERY LAST resort if all other options fail.

• If Nuclear Power is an energy option that Ghana must pursue, it is highly recommended that the option must be presented to the Ghanaians in the form of a referendum to let the people decide.

• On the basis of the above, I would recommend that the MOU should be withdrawn in the interim while Ghanaians are consulted. Julius Badu 2013 | Addressing our electricity shortfalls page 17 of 18 Summary. This article demonstrates how Ghana’s energy shortfall of 4000MW could be achieved from renewable energy resources. The recommended energy mix strategy to attain this is a combination of energy from renewable resources which is to be augmented with energy from Fossil Fuels. However, Fossil Fuel’s contribution to the mix should, progressively be reduced as additional plants from renewable energy resources are introduced. Fossil Fuels are recommended to be conserved for transport and other sectors of the economy. As the world struggles to control energy-related greenhouse gases, electricity-starved rural families in Ghana and other parts of Africa toil to build decent lives. Solar and wind power systems provide a unified solution, bringing power to those that need it, while making a moderate but important contribution to climate protection.

Ghana must seize the opportunity to show leadership and make this significant contribution to protect the world’s climate. Additionally the recommended energy mix strategy would provide opportunities for job creation in the remote areas as solar panels and wind turbines are replaced or upgraded.

It is absurd for Ghana to be pursuing Nuclear Power at a time when the more developed countries including Japan have plans to decommission theirs. A study conducted by an Australian energy expert, Associate Professor Mark Diesendorf, indicated that costs of Nuclear Power plants have risen rapidly since 2002.

Typically Nuclear Power plants have high capital costs but low direct fuel costs. However, a new Nuclear Power plant and associated infrastructure could take 15 years to plan, build and commission. This in turn leads to high levels of interest payments during construction. In contrast renewable energy technologies have very short construction periods. For example, large wind farms, solar power stations can be planned, approved, installed and commissioned in 2–3 years. An exception to this is large-scale hydro power stations. The study also cites big falls in the capital cost of onshore Wind Power and Solar Plants.

It concludes that Nuclear energy will be more expensive than most forms of renewable energy by 2020. Making allowance for future decommissioning costs makes Nuclear Julius Badu 2013 | Addressing our electricity shortfalls page 18 of 18 Plants less attractive. The decommissioning cost of the Three Mile Island plant in the USA was about $840 million. The cost of the Fukushima disaster cleanup is not yet known, but has been estimated to cost around $100 billion. Ghana is advised to consider all these other future costs as it pursues Nuclear Power. The claim that Nuclear Power emits negligible amounts of carbon dioxide is untrue as it is only applicable to the reactor operation. All other stages of the fuel chain – mining, milling, fuel fabrication, enrichment, reactor construction, decommissioning and waste management – use Fossil Fuels and hence emit carbon dioxide. The sophisticated systems used by Nuclear Plants to prevent cancer causing radiation from leaking into the environment are elaborate. However, some of the wastes could still be radioactive after 1000 years. There is no ironclad guarantee that accidentally leakages into the environment during that period could not occur. Ghana Government has a moral responsibility to leave the country’s environment in a better state than it came to meet it. This must be done for the benefit of the present and future citizens. The Government must also be conscious of the mood of the people it serves.

Finally, I wish to emphasize to the Government that, Ghanaians have entrusted their fate and destiny into its hands. However, the pursuit of Nuclear Power is too sensitive to be decided on by the Government without due consultation. As a sign of good gesture, the action the Government must take urgently is to declare the MOU null and void in the interim.

However, if it is inevitable that Nuclear Power must be explored, it is highly recommended that it must be presented in a referendum to allow the people to decide on this matter. The plebiscite would also determine a suitable storage location for the radioactive waste.

Author.

Julius Badu

The author of this article, is a Ghanaian Engineer resident in Melbourne, Australia. Email address: baduj@hotmail.com

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