18 April 2017

Kenya: Nuclear Solution to Water Supply Hitches


In a constantly developing world it is hard to imagine life without universal access to clean potable water, a basic essential that should be available to every man, woman and child.

In fact, one of the UN's most important sustainable development goals is about securing access to clean water and sanitation.

Despite the huge global efforts, thanks to which 2.6 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources since 1990, more than 600 million are still suffering due to lack of clean drinking water.

A January 2015 World Economic Forum report stated that the shortage of fresh water may be the main global threat in the next decade.

Over the past decade, sub-Saharan Africa has enjoyed impressive economic growth, with increased infrastructure development.


However, the region still faces substantial challenges. One is providing people with potable water, as lack of access to current water resources is severely affecting public health.

As a result of poor infrastructure, many Nigerians purchase water from private vendors.

In Ghana, 25 per cent of child deaths are caused by diseases connected with poor water quality, given that 80 per cent of the population has access to water.

In Kenya, potable water is accessible to 59 per cent of the population.

Climate change is worsening the situation, as some old fresh water sources will no longer be available to hundreds of millions of people around the world in future.


According to global estimates, by 2025, half of the world's population will live in water-stressed areas.

According to Prof Catherine Ngila, head of the Department of Applied Chemistry at the University of Johannesburg, there is a need to adopt new technologies to test and treat contaminated water and recycle waste water.

Where it cannot be obtained from streams and natural reservoirs, desalination of seawater, mineralisation of groundwater or urban waste water purification is required.

A great deal of the water crisis in sub-Saharan Africa can be overcome by developing special desalination plants and improving distribution infrastructure.

Small and medium-sized nuclear reactors will be the future of water desalination. In desalination, the excess heat from a power plant is used to evaporate sea water and condense pure water.


The benefit of nuclear technology is obvious - nuclear plants are capable of providing cheap, sustainable and clean energy as well as clean water.

Russian nuclear energy corporation Rosatom has gone further and developed world's first floating plant, capable of providing both energy and clean water to remote and desert regions.

The floating power plant can also be modified as a desalination plant able to produce 240,000 cubic meters of fresh water daily.

Like every Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), the floating power plant has all necessary safety technologies, which makes the reactors invulnerable to tsunami waves or crashes with other ships or on-land structures.


Nuclear desalination technologies do not emit any dangerous substances into atmosphere. So does it make sense for developing economies to adopt nuclear energy technology? The answer is yes! The conversation that should be taking place is not what kind of energy source is superior, but how can different energy sources complement needs in Kenya.

Energy is a key driver if Kenya is to attain its development agenda, Vision 2030. It is, therefore, imperative to note that energy diversification and adoption of new sources is vital in the attainment of the development blueprint. Nuclear energy plans comes in handy.

Mr Thuo is an economics & policy analysis lecturer in the School of Business at Karatina University and a resident economics analyst at GBS Africa on Energy issues. He is also a contributing Author for OGEL Journal.


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