The country’s vision for nuclear power in the energy sector is to develop an energy economy that will ensure a secure and reliable supply of high-quality energy for all segments of the economy in a universally accessible and an environmentally sustainable manner. In order to diversify the national energy mix and to promote renewable energy sources, the national energy policy recognises the need to develop nuclear power as an option for electricity generation in the long term.
Whilst the agenda for nuclear energy was initiated in the 1960s by Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, the reception of any policy or plan for going nuclear has been lukewarm. Understandably, this has been fuelled by the significant bad press that accompanies any nuclear accident or incident. As a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the pursuit of nuclear energy requires Ghana to, among other key obligations, establish an independent nuclear authority responsible for the regulation and management of the peaceful use of nuclear power.
In August 2015 the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) Act was passed by Parliament. The establishment of the NRA is significant. It makes major legislative interventions in the regulation of the generation and use of nuclear power and radioactive material. The authority is also charged with the responsibility of regulating the discovery, use and import of radioactive materials during the course of exploring, exploiting and extracting oil and gas, as well as mining and milling radioactive ore in the mining sector and other ore associated with radioactive and nuclear materials. In pursuit of its goals, the NRA is vested with the mandate to inter alia:
- Facilitate the development of national policies regarding the regulation and management of nuclear safety and research, as well as the security of nuclear and radioactive materials;
- Issue, modify, suspend or revoke authorisations in respect to nuclear activities and radioactive materials;
- Verify design, information, inspection and complementary access as provided for in the IAEA’s Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocols;
- Define detailed obligations, including financial conditions, for the use of nuclear materials and sources of radiation;
- Ensure that the “polluter pays” principle is applied in the management of nuclear and radioactive waste in Ghana; and
- Educate the Ghanaian public on matters related to nuclear and radiation. The power of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, which was established under the Atomic Energy Commission Act, 2000 (Act 588), to make legislative proposals to the government regarding nuclear radiation, radioactive waste management, and safety and health for nuclear radiation workers and the environment has now been transferred to the NRA. The NRA Act also prescribes rules for the construction and operation of nuclear installations. These rules cover the evaluation of nuclear construction sites, pre-construction and construction reviews, and review and assessment requirements before the commissioning and operation of a nuclear power installation. Following the passage of the NRA Act, the Radiation Protection Instrument, 1993 (LI 1559), which regulated radioactive material and authorisations for its use, is now revoked. The NRA Act provides that authorisations granted under LI 1559 shall be subject to modifications that may be necessary to make it compliant with the act, and such authorisation will continue to be valid until revocation or expiration. It is expected that a clear and predictable nuclear power legal regime may make Ghana more attractive for investments in nuclear power generation.
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