General News of 2013-03-02

MPs disagree on use of nuclear energy

Members of Parliament on Wednesday disagreed on the use of nuclear energy to address the country’s acute power shortage.

While majority were in a favour of nuclear energy, a few dissenting voices recommended the use of the abundant renewable energy resources of the country instead of nuclear power.

The dissenters were of the view that nuclear power was dangerous and that accidents at nuclear power plants could result in the destruction of lives such as what occurred in Chernobyl in Ukraine, then part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1986 and Fukushima in Japan in 2011.

In the Chernobyl disaster, although the Soviet government put the number of deaths at 36, unofficial documents pointed to the fact that more than 5,000 people lost their lives as a result.

The disagreements in Parliament on Wednesday arose as a result of a statement made on the floor of the House by Mr James Agalga (NDC, Builsa North), calling for the inclusion of nuclear energy in the country’s electricity generation mix.

He said with the growing population, Ghana needed more energy and added that research had shown that the country’s hydro power plants, thermal and renewable energy sources would not be enough to address the country’s needs.

The use of nuclear fission energy for electricity generation, though a relatively young energy technology in historical terms, provides just as much energy as hydro power globally.

He said Ghana’s effort to utilise nuclear energy dates back to the 1960s but the project was abandoned after Kwame Nkrumah’s overthrow.

Over the years, he said, the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) had developed human resource in reactors science through the operation of a 20 Kilovolts (KV) reactor acquired in 1994, as well as established the School of Nuclear and Allied Science to train more local man power.

“The process of Ghana going nuclear has gone far and various reports and recommendations have been made since the road map for Ghana’s first nuclear power plant was adopted in 2008. With some key recommendations pending, Ghana’s sure way of using nuclear energy for electricity generation among others, include accelerating processes to consider the Bill to establish an independent Nuclear Regulatory Authority,” he said.

Mr Agalga said Ghana would require a secure electricity supply to meet expected future demand which was an essential requirement for economic development as envisaged under the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda.

“Mr Speaker, in a world of increasing environmental concern, the concept of sustainable development has become a relevant guiding principle for politics and policy-making. The challenge lies in developing living standards and welfare for those living now, without jeopardising the resources, living standards, and welfare of those living now without jeopardising the resources, living standards and environmental quality of future generations.

“As we are all aware, ideal solutions to these challenges are hard to find. This calls for pragmatic approaches. It is in this context that the characteristics and possible roles of various available energy technologies, especially nuclear energy should be considered in Ghana’s case. Nuclear energy is a mature technology which can play an expanded role in meeting the growing demand for electricity in a safe and secure manner without contributing to global warming,” he said.

The Member of Nantong, Mr Murtala Mohammed (NDC), said although nuclear energy was expensive, the country needed to “think big” and develop that source because the country, apart from using the electricity generated from nuclear energy, could also export the electricity generated out of it .

He said Ghana need not to drag its feet in pursuing nuclear energy.

But the Member for Madina, Alhaji Ahmadu Bukari Sorogho,the loudest dissenting voice, said nuclear energy was not the way forward.

He said the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters needed to serve as a guide to the country and added that even Germany, which was the world’s leading user of nuclear energy, had moved away from that source and looking towards renewable energy.

Ghana, according to Alhaji Sorogho, abounded in many rivers and streams which could be used to generate from five to 20 megawatts of power to serve the needs of various communities.

He added that the country had a lot of sunshine, wind and garbage which could be turned into electricity and asked “why should we leave all these and turn to nuclear energy?”

“Nature has been very kind to us by giving us many natural sources of energy and we should use them,” Alhaji Sorogho said.

Dr Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan (NDC, Mion) said Ghana had enough nuclear scientists to further develop the sector.

He noted that nuclear energy, apart from its use for power generation, was also invaluable in medicine.

According to him, since the Chernobyl disaster, the management of nuclear power plants had improved significantly and Ghana could adopt best practices from other parts of the world.

He was, however, quick to add that much as he supported the use of nuclear energy, he would throw his weight behind moves to develop other sources of energy.

Mr Clement Kofi Humado (NDC, Anlo), said Ghana had qualified scientists to man any nuclear facility if the country decided to build nuclear power plants and said the country should take the bold step to develop its potential in the area of nuclear energy.

Papa Owusu Ankomah, (NPP, Sekondi), said Ghana had made great strides in nuclear science on the continent and added that if the country considered nuclear energy as a viable energy option, then it needed to invest in further research in that area.

He said the House needed to hold discussions with the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology on the extent to which nuclear energy could be used to augment the country’s energy supply.