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Opinions of Saturday, 28 April 2007

Columnist: Draft Kofi Annan 2008

Let realism guide our energy policy

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Let realism instead of delusions of grandeur guide our energy policy

A nation that cannot manage its organic and plastics waste in urban areas should not be thinking of nuclear power generation that yields some of the deadliest technology wastes and poses security risks. We appreciate our learned dons but wish they descend from the academic hills (Legon Hill, for instance) and mingle with today’s realities, like Ghana has more sunlight than uranium, when prescribing energy options for our future security in electricity generation for example. They should define solutions beyond their individual areas of interest, being realistic and devoid of grandeur ideas that exaggerate our capabilities. That is, they should stop prescribing edro to our sick energy system like edro sellers at lorry stations whose prescriptions treat the illusive kooko.

We join others before us in calling on Government to create a committee, as we are used to, that would chart our energy security path. We suggest such a team comprise those whose knowledge looks to the future, in charting a realistic policy and implementation strategy for our immediate and long-term sustainable electricity generation capacity development. We reiterate our call for an energy policy based on abundant sunlight all year round in all corners of our country, which creation has thought wise and bequeathed to us; that Government put in place the instruments necessary for a significant number of our public buildings (ministries, departments, hospitals and health centers, school blocks, even district level government departments) to use solar thermal energy sources for their electricity needs within the next five years, and make conditions favorable for private businesses and households to purchase and install such solar thermal energy devices. Much of the analysis and modalities for national solar thermal energy generation capacity acquisition and roll-out exist, for example; we only need to read or ask our donors, whose participation would be necessary anyway. Nuclear power plants offer us no cost saving but rather expose us to greater energy insecurity and health risks: Capital costs for a large-scale solar thermal energy system are largely upfront and close to that of a nuclear plant of similar output, if the cost of decommissioning the nuclear plant is pushed to future generations – that is, we spend now, the future pays for our bad choice; like the more recent you enter the university system, the more likely you would be in-out-out-out while the older had in-in-in-in and pocket money from the state.
Decommissioning cost of a nuclear system can be high: “The UK's nuclear waste clean-up program could cost more than £70bn, according to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).” A nuclear power system has little advantage over solar thermal energy system in our current global context. Our country being in the high solar radiation belt, we would never buy fuel again if we went solar, versus the cost of importing uranium for a nuclear plant. Furthermore, solar thermal energy system has zero emission, low operational safety risks therefore low insurance premium, and little decommissioning cost. A solar thermal energy system can use low cost thermal reservoirs for energy storage, and give us carbon credits to offset in areas our economy may have contributed negatively to greenhouse gas buildup; or, sell the credit for what we love most – foreign currency. We are a people whose capital city administrators, AMA, cannot handle household and industrial wastes from increased use of plastics for basic provisions such as nsu (or its various brand names) to satisfy a thirsty Ghanaian; this alone has overwhelmed city sanitation engineers; AMA would rather ban nsu than address waste management. We are a people with no emergency medical network with allied hospital emergency care capacity. The last nuclear accident was not Chernobyl; BBC Online has a chronicle of nuclear plant accidents: in 2004, “at least four people … killed in the deadliest accident to have hit a Japanese nuclear power plant. Seven people were also injured, after steam leaked from a turbine at the Mihama plant in Fukui prefecture. An official from Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency told news agency AFP that "about 10 people suffered burns" from the steam leak”; and in September 1999, “Workers (at Tokaimura nuclear fuel processing facility in Japan) break safety regulations by mixing dangerously large amounts of treated uranium in metal buckets, setting off a nuclear reaction (INES Level 4). Two of the workers later die from their injuries, and more than 40 others are treated for exposure to high levels of radiation.” We are told that Ghana has experience in nuclear applications from operations at “Kwabenya, Korle-Bu, komfo Anokye Hospital and Tafo Cocoa Research;” come again, eye edro, this is the edro. Some previous edros they sold us: that first year students at Kumasi university can build airplanes or that they will be building automobiles (?), but we could not maintain the couple of airplanes in the national carrier’s fleet – Ghana Airways of cursed memory; they have not even built bicycles. The recent fire that killed and destroyed infrastructure and assets at the Tema Shipyard, and the manner we are unable to provide emergency assistance for road accident victims, etc., should remind us that we have major gaps in safety and response to industrial accidents.
Ogya; don’t play with fire; fire will burn you. When you think about it, this would have been an ordinary task for Kofi Annan – to empanel an energy security task force, which would produce a framework for an enabling environment to translate policy into practice, with milestones and guidelines to monitor progress. Join us at

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