Kenya’s Nuclear Power Program: A Collaborative Approach for Energy Sustainability

by Nazia Sheikh and Dr. Abida Rafique

Kenya has made remarkable progress in developing nuclear infrastructure for its inaugural research reactor, marking a significant step toward potentially establishing commercial nuclear power plants within the country. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conducted a review mission, recognizing that nations, including Kenya, begin their nuclear power programs with the development of a research reactor—a pivotal precursor to a prospective nuclear power initiative. Kenya aims to commission its initial research reactor between 2030 and 2034.

Andrey Sitnikov, leading the IAEA review mission, commended Kenya’s methodical and professional approach to its research reactor program. He noted the country’s extensive efforts in legal and regulatory framework development, stakeholder engagement, and human resource preparation for both operators and regulators.

Despite not being a party to the NPT, the Treaty assigns the IAEA major verification duties. Article III of the NPT mandates that every non-nuclear-weapon State party enters into a comprehensive safeguards agreement (CSA) with the IAEA. Kenya ratified the NPT in 1970, and in 2009, an agreement between the IAEA and the Republic of Kenya regarding the application of safeguards was established in relation to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Kenya’s national power demand is expected to rise sharply in the near future as the nation moves closer to being a middle-income nation. According to Kenya’s development blueprint, Vision 2030, energy is a major factor in sustainable growth. The energy sector is anticipated to deliver a sufficient, reasonably priced, and dependable supply of energy to meet the nation’s development needs.

In the medium case scenario, Kenya’s Least Cost Power Development Plan (LCPDP 2022–2041) predicts that peak demand will average 5.34 percent between 2,036 MW and 5,757 MW throughout the 2022–2041 period. Kenya will require an alternative base load power source to meet the anticipated demand, and nuclear power is considered a viable option. As per the Strategic Plan of the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA), the first 1,000 MW nuclear power plant is anticipated to be operational by 2038.

Kenya’s pursuit of a commercial nuclear station aligns with its commitment to transitioning to clean energy and meeting the escalating demand for energy in a nation with a steadily growing population. In 2022, the government identified Kilifi and Kwale as optimal sites for potential nuclear energy projects, situated along the coast and inland, respectively.

The Kenya Nuclear Power and Energy Agency, responsible for preparations related to the nuclear power program, initially projected construction to commence by 2030. Recent statements from government officials, however, suggest a potential start in 2027, albeit with uncertainties.

As of now, Africa’s only operational commercial power station is the two-unit Koeberg facility near Cape Town, South Africa, with Russia assisting Egypt in constructing a four-unit station at El-Dabaa. Notably, seven sub-Saharan African countries, including Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan, Rwanda, and Zambia, have committed to incorporating nuclear power into their energy mix between 2030 and 2037.

Under the leadership of Mr. Justus Wabuyabo, the Acting CEO of the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA), Kenya has adopted a multilateral approach, emphasizing collaboration as essential for the success and sustainability of its nuclear power program. Mr. Wabuyabo shared insights into Kenya’s Nuclear Power Program during the Africa Nuclear Business Platform Lite 2023.

In 2010, the Kenyan government took a pivotal step, recognizing the need to integrate nuclear power into its energy mix to address the escalating demand for electricity. This decision set the stage for strategic actions and partnerships. The IAEA played a critical role by conducting an Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) in 2015, evaluating Kenya’s progress and providing recommendations. The comprehensive review yielded 15 recommendations and 8 suggestions aligned with the IAEA’s Milestones Approach Phase 1 criteria.

In 2019, Kenya enacted a national nuclear law and established a regulatory body, the Kenyan Nuclear Authority, with clearly defined responsibilities for safety, security, and safeguards. An assessment of the national legal framework identified areas requiring review to ensure effective governance of the nuclear power program. Effective coordination among stakeholders has been a priority, with a forthcoming social assessment expected to provide additional insights.

A follow-up INIR mission in 2021 confirmed Kenya’s substantial progress in implementing recommendations, propelling the nation into Phase 2 of its nuclear program. Kenya has undertaken a meticulous nuclear feasibility study and formulated a 15-year strategic plan, underscoring the significance of long-term planning. Key frameworks, including the National Nuclear Policy and the National Policy and Strategy for Safety, have been developed to guide the government’s decision-making process.

Kenya aims to operationalize its first Nuclear Power Plant by 2034, with the bidding process and associated infrastructure work targeted for completion by 2027. The nation is aligning national and international legal frameworks to support the establishment of the nuclear power plant. Kenya’s nuclear program enjoys strong political support, reflecting a collective vision for a more energy-secure and prosperous future.

In the realm of small modular reactors (SMRs), Kenya is approaching cautiously, prioritizing regulatory considerations. While the nation expresses interest in SMR technology, anticipating the first commercialized SMR by 2028, discussions with international partners from South Korea and the United States are ongoing. Establishing a robust regulatory framework for SMR technology is considered urgent, and a multilateral approach is seen as instrumental in streamlining this process.

Regarding funding and financing, Kenya advocates for a pragmatic multilateral approach, recognizing the complexities and potential risks associated with nuclear power programs. This approach can provide risk mitigation and simplify the financing process. The Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA) remains committed to its ’15-year strategic plan,’ outlining Kenya’s nuclear power journey.Under the Energy Act of 2019, the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA) was established as a state corporation. It is in charge of carrying out research and development for the energy sector as well as promoting and executing Kenya’s nuclear power plan. Kenya’s pursuit of nuclear energy underscores the importance of collaboration and multilateralism in realizing a more energy-secure and prosperous future.

As many nations worldwide turn to nuclear power to meet rising electricity needs, it is essential for Africa, with nearly 30 nations considering nuclear power. The IAEA actively promotes the peaceful use of nuclear energy, with approximately one-third of the nations considering nuclear power located in Africa. Kenya’s efforts reflect a broader global trend towards embracing nuclear energy as a vital component of the energy mix.

In order to fulfill Vision 2030 and reduce carbon footprint for sustainable development, it is worthwhile for Kenya to invest in the Nuclear Power Program. The Plan is a component of the national government’s initiatives, carried out through the Ministry of Energy, aimed at guaranteeing 4000 MWe by 2030. Through electricity interconnectors that are already being built or are planned, the Plan is projected to have a major impact on promoting economic and industrial development in Kenya in accordance with the Big 4 Agenda (Food security, affordable housing, manufacturing, and affordable healthcare comprise the “Big 4 Agenda”) as well as in the East African region.

Even though these developing nations are several, it is unlikely that they will make a significant contribution to the rise of nuclear capacity in the near future; instead, the majority of the growth will occur in nations where the technology is already well-established. Longer-term, however, the tendency of urbanization in developing nations will significantly raise the need for electricity, particularly that provided by nuclear and base-load power plants.

The economy of Kenya has weakened during the last few months. ICT (Information Communication Technology) is Kenya’s second-best-performing industry, behind only agribusiness, which is one of the fastest-growing industries and accounts for over 9% of the country’s GDP. Kenya, with its aspirations to establish a sustainable nuclear reactor program for long-term energy needs, could benefit from forging strategic partnerships with technologically advanced countries like China, the UK, the US, and Japan. By leveraging the expertise and resources of these nations, Kenya can enhance the viability and longevity of its nuclear energy initiative, especially given its current economic challenges.

Collaborating with technologically advanced countries would position Kenya to be more self-reliant in managing and sustaining its nuclear reactor program, thereby contributing to the country’s energy security and overall development. This collaborative approach can offer Kenya access to advanced technologies, knowledge exchange, and the necessary support to navigate the complexities of nuclear energy implementation, ensuring a more robust and successful endeavor in the long run.


  1.  Nazia Sheikh, Research Officer, CISS AJK, nsheikh536@gmail.coom
  2.  Dr Abida Rafique, Research Officer, CISS AJK,

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