Ethiopian Dam Critics Won’t Go Away

Posted on 12 February 2010. Filed under: Energy, Environment |

What will happen to the Omo River and the lake it feeds if the Gilgel Gibe III dam is completed? Credit:Oxonhutch/Wikimedia

ADDIS ABABA, (IPS) – Ethiopia is building a 240-metre high dam on the Omo River that is intended to end the country’s electricity shortage and supply power to neighbouring countries. Not everyone’s happy.

The Gilgel Gibe III dam will hold back 14.7 million cubic metres of water. Its 1,870 MW generating capacity will be a significant boost for the Ethiopian Electric Power Company (EEPCO) which has plans to extend electricity supply within the country and export power to other countries in East Africa.

A 1.7 billion dollar contract to build the dam has been awarded to Italian multinational Salini Costruttori SPA. But the project’s critics have assembled a damning dossier of problems with it.

Two environmental organisations, Friends of Lake Turkana and International Rivers, are challenging the ecological soundness of the project. They say it threatens biodiversity in the Omo River and Lake Turkana which it feeds. The basin has large populations of Nile crocodiles, hippopotamus, and over 40 different species of fish.

IR and FoLT say changes in the river’s flow will also put the livelihoods of up to 200,000 people who depend on the lake for fishing, herding and irrigation at risk.

The groups have raised questions over the quality of the environmental and social impact studies completed for the project.

Gilgel Gibe III’s opponents also point out that the contract to build the dam was not awarded through a competitive international tender; it was negotiated directly with Salini, in violation of Ethiopia’s procurement guidelines.


EEPCO argues that both Ethiopian and international procurement guidelines allowed Gibe III’s contract to be reached without a tender process due to its size and huge financial requirements. EEPCO CEO Miheret Debebe says the project’s opponents are using false allegations to try to stop the project.

However Ken Ohashi, World Bank country director for Ethiopia and Sudan, confirmed that the omission of a competitive tender means the Bank cannot loan the Ethiopian government money for the project. This does not rule out World Bank involvement entirely.

“In a situation like this, there is a possibility for us, in line with our guidelines, to help mobilise financing from the private market to finance the project by providing a guarantee to those interested in financing it,” Ohashi told IPS.

“If decided, we will provide guarantee against certain types of risk of non-repayment to commercial financiers – basically ‘political’ rather than ‘commercial’ risk of repayment,” he said.

Construction on Gibe III is already more than a third complete, but more money will be needed. The Ethiopian government’s task of addressing concerns – environmental, social, technical and financial – in order to secure a World Bank credit guarantee has now been complicated by problems facing an earlier phase of the massive hydroelectric project.

A cautionary tale

Barely two weeks after it was formally opened on Jan. 14, the Gilgel Gibe II hydroelectric power station suffered a collapse in its main tunnel, forcing closure of the new facility while it is repaired.

Gibe II, also built by Salini, has – or had – a generating capacity of 420MW; it relied on water released from the Gilgel Gibe I dam channeled through a 26 kilometre tunnel into the Omo River valley. The terms for this project too were negotiated between the Ethiopian government and Salini without competitive bidding.

According to Italian World Bank watchdog group Campagna per la Riforma per la Banca Mondiale (CRBM), the 490 million Euro contract for Gibe II (today equivalent to 670 million dollars) violated Italian and Ethiopian regulations. Italy’s Directorate General for Development Cooperation (DGCS) nonetheless approved the largest single aid credit it had ever granted.

This was against the advice of both Italy’s finance ministry and DGCS’s own internal evaluation unit. Reviewing that advice, CRBM lists the flaws: a no-bid contract, an inadequate feasibility study, the absence of funds for environmental mitigation, and an unrealistic projection for servicing the loan.

The European Investment Bank also loaned the project 50 million euros ($69 million at today’s exchange rate); according to the CRBM accepting Ethiopia’s argument that it faced an emergency electrical shortage in lieu of more complete preparation and procedure.

Construction ran into severe difficulties as the tunneling engineers encountered unexpected mud, sand and aquifers; the project was finally completed two years behind schedule, with the Ethiopian government – and taxpayers – picking up the cost overrun as the contract held Salini liable for any delays due to engineering failures, while these problems were due to an inadequate geological survey.

Returning to Gibe III

In 2009, a group of eight academics and consultants collaborating as the Africa Resources Working Group (ARWG) published a sharp critique of the studies done for Gibe III. The ARWG says that contrary to the findings of the environmental and social impact assessments provided by Salini and EEPCO, the downstream impacts of the dam will likely be devastating.

They predict radical reduction of water flowing into Lake Turkana; the loss of cultivation of seasonally-flooded land in the Omo River delta, and of riverine forest and woodland the length of the river, damaging biodiversity and livelihoods.

“Altogether, more than 200,000 indigenous peoples of the lowermost Omo Basin are dependent on riverside and delta recessional cultivation… This population would face massive economic losses, with widespread severe hunger, disease and loss of life occurring on a regional scale, if the Gibe III dam is completed.”

The authors reject the official studies’ claims that lake water levels are already dropping due to evaporation from uncontrolled flooding, or that using the dam to deliberately increase water flow in the river during the dry season will alleviate drought.

Instead, they explain their view that extensive leakage through fissures in the walls of the eventual reservoir behind the dam, as well as the planned abstraction of water for new commercial agriculture and industrial development just downstream will see water levels in Lake Turkana fall by as much as 10 metres. The ARWG also expresses concern that clay rich soil around the dam could become prone to landslides as it fills up – and to top it off: the dam site is on an active earthquake fault line.

“An accurate assessment of environmental and social processes within the lower Omo Basin indicates that completion of the Gibe III dam would produce a broad range of negative effects, some of which would be catastrophic in the tri-country region where Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya intersect.”

As the World Bank’s review board meets on Mar. 5th, it will have much to consider. At stake is the life of a river, the fate of 200,000 people along its banks, and the commitments to transparent and effective aid made by governments and multilateral institutions alike.

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Kenyan Nuclear Power Plans Forge Ahead

Posted on 11 August 2009. Filed under: Energy, Environment |

Nuclear cooling towers in South Africa, currently the only African country with a fully operational nuclear power plant  Flickr/Corvair Owner

Nuclear cooling towers in South Africa, currently the only African country with a fully operational nuclear power plant Flickr/Corvair Owner The Kenyan government has identified construction sites for a nuclear power plant — potentially the first on the continent outside South Africa.

Rolex Kirui, a senior engineer for the Kenyan government, says that one site has been identified near the Kenyan coast and construction is scheduled to begin once an ongoing environmental study has been completed. He says that a second potential site has been identified in western Kenya, bordering Lake Victoria.

Kenya’s energy minister, Kiraitu Murungi, first announced plans for the plant’s construction last year (9 October).

Murungi told SciDev.Net there is a shortage of 3,000 megawatts of electricity for the country. Kenya generates just 1,100 megawatts of electricity per year and its electricity production is ranked twenty-second in Africa.

”With nuclear energy there is potential to generate four times that amount or even more,” he says.

South Africa is the only African nation to have a fully operational nuclear power plant. Egypt and Nigeria are in the process of planning their own plants but Kenya is the first to both identify a site and undergo an environmental study.

David Maina, director of nuclear science and technology at the University of Nairobi, told SciDev.Net the project will cost an estimated 80 billion Kenyan shillings (US$1 billion).

But it will take at least five years before the plant is operational as extensive inspection must be carried out by authorities such as the Radiation Protection Board and the National Environmental Management Authority.

Construction could begin as early as September 2010 once a feasibility study is complete, says Maina.

Kirui says that construction of the plant could act as a model for other African countries to solve their own electricity problems. He is also confident that the plant will not harm the environment, since all necessary safety measures will be taken.

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Hot Prospect – Geothermal Electricity Set for Rift Valley Lift-Off in 2009

Posted on 12 December 2008. Filed under: Energy, Environment |

A century-old energy technology that taps steam from hot underground rocks is poised for a massive expansion up East Africa’s Rift Valley in the 21st century.

The news comes as countries across the world, from Guatemala to Papua New Guinea, are beginning to plug into geothermal energy as a new and promising alternative to coal and oil-fired power generation.

Today the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) announced the completion of project testing advanced seismic and drilling techniques in Kenya that has exceeded all expectations.

Wells of steam, able to generate 4-5 MW of electricity and one yielding a bumper amount of 8MW, have been hit using the new technology.

It could mean a saving of as much as $75 million for the developer of a 70MW installation as well as reduced electricity costs for generators and consumers, experts estimate.

The results, announced at the UN climate convention conference in Poznan, Poland have now paved the way for an international effort in 2009 to expand geothermal up and down the Rift which runs from Mozambique in the South to Djibouti in the North.

The project, funded by the GEF and involving UNEP and the Kenyan power company KenGen, could also transform the prospects and costs for geothermal elsewhere in the world.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “Combating climate change while simultaneously getting energy to the two billion people without access to it are among the central challenges of this generation. Geothermal is 100 per cent indigenous, environmentally-friendly and a technology that has been under-utilized for too long”.

“There are least 4,000MW of electricity ready for harvesting along the Rift. It is time to take this technology off the back burner in order to power livelihoods, fuel development and reduce dependence on polluting and unpredictable fossil fuels. From the place where human-kind too its first faltering steps is emerging one of the answers to its continued survival on this planet,” he added.

Monique Barbut, Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the GEF, said: “Overcoming the economic and technical hurdles to renewable energy generation is part of our shared responsibility. The work in the Rift Valley is demonstrating that geothermal is not only technologically viable but cost effective for countries in Africa where there an overall potential of at least 7,000MW”.

“Indeed geothermal world-wide is undergoing a renaissance with the numbers of countries starting to use this power source estimated to rise from around 20 in 2000 to close to 50 by 2010. Africa’s Rift Valley will I hope become a beacon for further geothermal acceleration in terms of the size and the number of power plants alongside its geographical spread across the developed and developing world”.

The Project in Kenya

The GEF-funded project has, over the past three years used techniques known as Micro Seismic and Magneto Telluric surveys and studies for identifying promising new drilling sites at locations including Olkaria, Naivasha which is around one hour’s drive from the capital Nairobi.

Here a geothermal plant generating 45MW has been operating for a quarter century. A second plant was brought on stream in 2000 with a capacity of 70 MW.

The main challenge to expansion in Kenya and elsewhere along the Rift has been the risk associated with drilling and the high costs if steam is missed.

The nearly $1million Joint Geophysical Imaging project has aimed to overcome these risks. The old wells in Naivasha generate about two MW whereas the new techniques have not only boosted the chances of hitting steam but have pinpointed wells of much higher potential, typically on average four to five MW.

Rift Geothermal Expansion

Two years ago the GEF Council approved the Africa Rift Valley Geothermal Development Facility (ARGeo) backed with close to $18 million of funding and involving UNEP and the World Bank.

The project, which will underwrite the risks of drilling in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, is now set to commence in early 2009 and will be able to call on the equipment and techniques piloted by KenGen and UNEP.

The ARGeo initiative has strong support from Iceland, one of the world’s leading geothermal economies where well over 90 per cent of its electricity comes from ‘hot rock’ and hydro, as well as Germany which is also developing this energy technology.

Separately Kenya and private investors are also seeking support funding from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol for a further 35MW extension which is currently in the validation stage.

Kenya’s current electricity capacity is around 1,000MW. The country relies heavily on hydro-electric plants, generation systems that have in recent years suffered as a result of low rainfall and water supplies.

The country has set itself a goal of generating 1,200MW from geothermal by 2015.

A contract has recently been awarded to a Chinese company to drill as part of the development of a new Olkaria IV plant. As a result of the UNEP-GEF Joint Geophysical Imaging project the number of wells likely to be needed to achieve 70MW could be 15 versus over 30 using the previous technology. This could save as much as $5 million for each well drilled.

UNEP-GEF is currently in discussions with the Ministry of Water and Environment o the Yemen to explore for geothermal there in early 2009.

More countries in the region with geothermal resources have also signalled their enthusiasm to participate in the geothermal expansion including the Comoro Islands, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda.

Notes to Editors

Global Geothermal

Over 12 new geothermal projects are in the pipeline or have been registered under the CDM according to an analysis by UNEP’s Risoe energy centre in Denmark.

These include two in El Salvador, totalling close to 50MW; one in Guatemala for 25MW; four in Indonesia totalling 200MW; Nicaragua, 66MW; Papua New Guinea, 55MW and two in the Philippines totalling 60MW.

Estimates by the Earth Policy Institute in Washington indicate that globally, geothermal capacity rose from 1,300MW in 1975 to close to 8,000MW in 2000 and stood at almost 10,000MW in 2007. The institute estimates that by 2010, geothermal capacity could have reached 13,500MW.

The United States is the world leader in terms of capacity with around 3,000MW followed by the Philippines with close to 2,000MW followed by Indonesia with 1,000MW.

A separate study in the GHC Bulletin from September 2007 estimates that geothermal could grow by 900 per cent in Papua New Guinea; over 100 per cent in Iceland and by 90 per cent in Turkey.

A new and separate assessment coordinated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology indicates that the United States could provide a significant slice of its base-load electricity from geothermal.

It says that the US has enough geothermal potential to generate 100,000 MW (100 GW) of base-load electricity by 2050 by investing in enhanced geothermal systems.

Current total energy generation in the US is somewhere under 1,000GW of which between 0.23 per cent to 0.4 per cent is estimated to be geothermal according to various sources..

The report says that there is a widely-held view that high, exploitable levels of geothermal resources do not exist in the US.

But the report says: “Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) represent a large, indigenous resource that can provide base-load electric power and heat at a level that can have a major impact on the United States while incurring minimal environmental impacts”.

Combined public and private investment of $800 million to a $1 billion is needed over 15 year-period needed to get it up and running commercially and to realize 100GW by 2050. Somewhere over $200 million of this is needed to achieve a break even point with coal.

This is equal to total Research and Development in the past 30 years globally on EGS and still less than the cost of a single, new generation, clean-coal power plant.

For More Information Please Contact Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson/Head of Media, on Tel +41 79 596 57 37, or E-mail:

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Global Year-End Snapshot of the Clean Development Mechanism 2008

Posted on 12 December 2008. Filed under: Energy, Environment |

Numbers of Projects World-Wide Registered or in the Pipeline at Over 4,000 up from 60 in 2004 Says UNEP

Hydro, Wind and other ‘Traditional’ Renewables Dominate but Some Geothermal, Energy Efficiency and Home Lighting Projects Coming Through

Wind and geothermal power projects alongside ones promoting energy efficiency and even the preservation of onions are emerging across the globe courtesy of the United Nation-brokered carbon markets.

A year-end snapshot of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol- the UN emission-reduction treaty- shows that more than 4,200 projects are up and running, or in various phases of the pipeline.

Leading are medium and small-scale hydroelectric projects; followed by biomass energy, wind power and electricity from industrial waste heat.

However the CDM is also now triggering interest in a wider range of renewable energy projects. These include solar and geothermal power and one 250 MW tidal project in the Republic of Korea.

One novel project is emerging from Niger where an estimated 60 per cent of the national onion crop can be lost, leading to methane emissions as the vegetables rot.

The idea is to use solar dryers and other systems to preserve the onions so they do not rot in storage or on the way to market.

Lars Appelquist of UNEP’s Risoe Centre in Denmark, which has compiled the end of year snap shot and who has been working with the Niger onion farmers to access the CDM, said: “Some 3,000 tonnes of onions, produced by small farmers can be lost annually”.

“Support under the CDM raises the prospect of not only cutting greenhouse gas emissions but more than doubling incomes of onions farmers by boosting exports by cutting post harvest losses. It is a rather unusual but small example of the co-benefits arising from so many CDM projects”.

Global CDM Situation

The snap shot covers the years from 2004 up to November 2008 at the global, regional and national scale.

Brazil, China, India and Mexico continue to access the lion’s share of the projects with a total of 3,218 of which 1,557 are for China and 1,135 for India.

But regions and countries once on the periphery of such schemes are beginning to access the environmental, economic and development benefits, many for the first time.

Indeed if the numbers for China and India are excluded, the Asia and Pacific region now has close to 550 projects up from five in 2004.

And if the numbers for Brazil and Mexico are removed from the evaluation for Latin America and the Caribbean, totals here stand at nearly 290 up from 19 four years ago.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “The CDM and the carbon markets as a whole are one of the great success stories of international cooperative action on climate change. The challenge now is to streamline it and overcome some of the hurdles that are keeping back projects in areas such as the building sector and forestry”.

“By 2012 we estimate that over 8,000 CDM projects may be up and running or in the pipeline generating financial flows from North to South of well over $30 billion,” he added.

The calculation is based on the CDM generating an estimated 1.6 billion Certified Emission Reduction” carbon credits worth $20 each.

“In doing so the CDM is not only emerging as one key and creative instrument for combating climate change but an important stimulus package to developing country economies,” said Mr Steiner.

Maryam Niamir-Fuller, Director of the UNEP’s Global Environment Facility Division, said today that action was underway to try and boost the number of projects under the CDM that involve afforestation and reforestation and that capture not only carbon but ‘co-benefits’ such as improvements for biodiversity, soils and adaptation to climate change.

“Today we are announcing a project, in partnership with others, aimed at streamlining the methodology for assessing the carbon of such projects. This could be the key to unlocking the potential of the CDM to help re-carbonize degraded ecosystems,” she said.

The other partners include WWF, the University of Michigan, the University of Colorado and World Soil Information.

Some Regional and National Highlights


While the number of registered or proposed projects in Africa remains small, the CDM is now being glimpsed across almost all countries albeit at a low level.

In 2004, only two countries across the entire Continent were accessing the CDM—Morocco and South Africa. In 2008, a large range of African countries now have projects up and running or in the pipeline.

The country with the largest slice is South Africa with just under 30 registered or in the pipeline, followed by Egypt; 12 and Morroco with nine.

Renewable energy projects at close to 40 per cent top Africa’s access to the CDM followed by a quarter of projects in the methane reduction area.

Nigeria is likely to generate the greatest financial flows from just four projects worth, if all are approved, some $108 million annually under the $20 assumption; followed by South Africa at some $97 million and Egypt at over $60 million.

Middle East

The Middle East had zero projects in 2004 and only one in 2005. The year end snapshot indicates that a total of 54 are either registered or in the pipeline with the United Arab Emirates emerging with 13 from zero projects in 2007.

Israel has the highest number registered or in the pipeline at 33 which annual CERs could be worth $72 million a year, followed by Qatar with one registered project potentially worth $50 million annually.

Overall the current portfolio of CDM projects in the Middle East could be worth close to $170 million a year under the $20 assumption for CERs.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia

The 11 countries in this group currently have the lowest number of CDM projects registered or in the pipeline: 42.

In 2004 these countries also had zero CDM access however since 2006 the situation has been improving if slightly with 14 projects then; 29 in 2007 and 42 by November this year.

Armenia tops the list with 8 registered or in the pipeline followed by Cyprus and Uzbekistan with 7 and Georgia with 6. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have one each.

The projects are expected to generate just over $80 million.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Some 814 CDM projects are registered or in the pipeline with the figures dominated by Brazil, close to 330 projects followed by Mexico with close to 200.

However, other countries are picking up. For example Chile had just five projects in 2004 but today has well over 60 registered or in the pipeline. Colombia had zero four years ago and now has 36.

Guyana has just one and Cuba and Jamaica two while Paraguay has four and the Dominican Republic and Uruguay five apiece.

Over 50 per cent of projects registered or in the pipeline are classed as renewables with over a fifth in the agricultural sector including many tackling emissions from animal wastes.

Landfill gas accounts for over 14 per cent and over five per cent are in the area of energy efficiency. Only just over one per cent are in forestry.

The value of the CERs, based on the $20/CER assumption, could reach well over 1.5 billion of which close to $650 million generated in Brazil; around $300 million, Mexico and well over $100 million, Argentina.

Asia and the Pacific

Close to 3,250 CDM projects are registered or in the pipeline that could be worth over $9.5 billion of which some $6.5 billion relate to China.

Renewables dominate the regional CDM picture with close to 70 per cent of the projects followed by energy efficiency projects on both the ‘supply and the demand-side’ at 18 per cent.

Projects to cut emissions of hydrochloroflurocarbons (HFCs) and oxides of nitrogen amount to two per cent of the projects but the number have flattened out indicating that this mitigation measure under the CDM may be coming to an end.

After China and India, Malaysia comes third with 145 projects registered or in the pipeline up from one in 2004 followed by Indonesia with close to 100 including geothermal.

The countries with the least projects are Fiji, the Peoples Democratic Republic of Laos and Papua New Guinea with just one apiece.

Least Developed Countries

Among these countries there are only 39 projects registered or in the pipeline of which 16 are in the Asia and Pacific region and 23 in Africa.

The potential value of the annual CERs are close to $135 million with Bhutan estimated to generate the most revenue of over $75 million. Uganda, Cambodia and Bangladesh have the most in terms of numbers with eight, five and four respectively.

Programmatic CDM

One relative new development of the CDM is called programmatic in which a large number of ‘small’ projects are bundled together to make a bigger project proposal that may be more attractive to investors and better in terms of economies of scale.

Ten of these, all of which are in the pipeline, are part of the year-end snap shot. These include a municipal waste composting one for Uganda; an efficient light bulb project for households in Mexico and an over 11MW solar household system project for Bangladesh.

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Courting Disaster: Why Kenyans Must Stop Oloolua Nuclear Waste Plant

Posted on 9 July 2008. Filed under: Development, Energy, Environment, Public Health |

Kenya is a few days away from hosting the first ever dreaded and less understood radioactive waste processing facility at Oloolua, located at the institute of primate research in Kajiado district. If the facility is allowed to proceed, Kenyans will without doubt pay dearly, in the same way history is certain to harshly judge the current generation. Why?

With known impunity, corruption and weak institutional mechanisms, proposed relative mitigation measures on waste generation management, occupational hazards and safety will be flouted at the expense of severe environmental waste. Last week, a curious media advertisement from National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) confirmed that a full environment impact assessment report was available for inspection and all that was required was ‘oral or written comments within thirty (30) days..’

World statistics posted on the internet about nuclear substances are shocking: An example is that less than 8 kilograms of of a substance called plutonium is enough for one Nagasaki-type bomb. The technology applied in producing nuclear energy, particularly the process that turns raw uranium into lowly-enriched uranium, can also be used to produce highly-enriched, weapons-grade uranium. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is responsible for monitoring the world’s nuclear facilities and for preventing weapons proliferation, but their safeguards are said to have serious shortcomings. On April 26, 1986 the number 4 reactor at the Chernobyl power plant (in the former U.S.S.R and present-day Ukraine ) exploded, causing the worst nuclear accident ever.

Many troubles as a result

Firstly, 30 people were killed instantly, including 28 from radiation exposure, and a further 209 on site were treated for acute radiation poisoning.

Secondly, the World Health Organization (WHO) is reported to have found that the fallout from the explosion was incredibly far-reaching. For a time, radiation levels in Scotland , over 2,300 km away, were 10,000 times the norm.

Thirdly, thousands of cancer deaths were a direct result of the accident. The accident cost the former Soviet Union more than three times the economical benefits accrued from the operation of every other Soviet nuclear power plant operated between 1954 and 1990.

Fourthly, in March of 1979 equipment failures and human error contributed to an accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor at Harrisburg , Pennsylvania , the worst such accident in U.S. history. Consequences of the incident include radiation contamination of surrounding areas, increased cases of thyroid cancer, and plant mutations.

Fifthly, according to the US House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, “Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences (CRAC2) for US Nuclear Power Plants” (1982, 1997), an accident at a US nuclear power plant could kill more people than were killed by the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki .

What would be the possibilities of environmental degradation?

Firstly, all the steps in the complex process of creating nuclear energy entail environmental hazards.

Secondly, the mining of uranium, as well as its refining and enrichment, and the production of plutonium produce radioactive isotopes that contaminate the surrounding area, including the groundwater, air, land, plants, and equipment. As a result, humans and the entire ecosystem are adversely and profoundly affected.

Thirdly, some of these radioactive isotopes are extraordinarily long-lived, remaining toxic for hundreds of thousands of years.

What are the possible dangers of the Oloolua-type nuclear waste processing?

Firstly, nuclear waste is produced in many different ways. There are wastes produced in the reactor core, wastes created as a result of radioactive contamination, and wastes produced as a byproduct of uranium mining, refining, and enrichment. The vast majority of radiation in nuclear waste is given off from spent fuel rods.

Secondly, a typical reactor will generate 20 to 30 tons of high-level nuclear waste annually. There is no known way to safely dispose of this waste, which remains dangerously radioactive until it naturally decays.

Thirdly, the rate of decay of a radioactive isotope is called its half-life, the time in which half the initial amount of atoms present takes to decay. The half-life of Plutonium-239, one particularly lethal component of nuclear waste, is 24,000 years.

Fourthly, the hazardous life of a radioactive element (the length of time that must elapse before the material is considered safe) is at least 10 half-lives. Therefore, Plutonium-239 will remain hazardous for at least 240,000 years.

When a proposal to dump nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain , Nevada an opposition to it was strong on the 10-point action plan

Experts believe that the best action would be to cease producing nuclear energy (and waste), to leave the existing waste where it is, and to immobilize it. They say that there are a few different methods of waste immobilization. In the vitrification process, waste is combined with glass-forming materials and melted. Once the materials solidify, the waste is trapped inside and can’t easily be released. It is for this reason that Kenya is truly not ready to host this ‘investment’ that could turn out to be a nightmare.


*If you believe in this founded fears, and you would like the Government to delay
making approving the Oloolua nuclear waste processing plant until sufficient
clarifications are made please sign up your name by sending an email to: today.

*Please forward this article to as many people as possible in your mailing list.

Kenya Alliance of Residents Associations (KARA)

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Top Ten Reasons to Oppose the DoE’s Yucca Mountain Plan
by David Krieger and Marissa Zubia*,
August 23, 2002

Nuclear energy has always been promoted to the public in fraudulent ways. At the outset, it was claimed that it would be “too cheap to meter,” a claim that was far from true even without taking into account large government subsidies provided to the nuclear industry. Later, and still today, nuclear energy is promoted as being “clean, safe and environmentally friendly.” This claim should have been definitively laid to rest with the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident.

Now the proponents of nuclear energy are pushing for long-term storage of highly radioactive nuclear wastes at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The $7 billion that the Department of Energy (DoE) has spent on researching the suitability of Yucca Mountain, Nevada as a radioactive waste storage site has only served to prove that the volatile Yucca Mountain itself is a terrible place to dump the 77,000 tons of nuclear waste that has been building up at nuclear power plants. It is a shortsighted and dangerous scheme that would endanger tens of millions of Americans now and for generations to come.

There are many sound reasons to oppose the Department of Energy’s plan to transport nuclear wastes from throughout the country to Yucca Mountain. Here are our top ten.

1. Accomplishes No Reasonable Objective

Yucca Mountain does not eliminate on-site storage of nuclear waste. After Yucca Mountain is full, there will still be 44,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste stored on-site at reactors throughout the country. There will also be 77,000 tons of such waste moving around the US over the next 30 years, traveling from one of 131 sites an average of 2000 miles per shipment to Yucca Mountain. If the purpose of the Yucca Mountain project is to consolidate the wastes, that goal will clearly not be achieved.

2. Provides Minimal Protection

Yucca Mountain itself only provides a small portion of the “protection” that the proposed site promises. The casks that hold the waste are the actual protection, so why Yucca Mountain at all?

3. Creates More Nuclear Waste

Shipping the waste off-site will allow for the nuclear reactors to continue creating more waste long after the contracts for those sites were set to expire, thus continuing the cycle of producing extremely dangerous waste that no one knows how to safely dispose of. The nuclear industry has economic incentives for moving the waste off-site from the reactors.

4. Adverse Effects on Future Generations

The project is a distinct danger to defenseless citizens — not just in this generation, but thousands of generations to come will be affected by this decision. Plutonium-239, for example, has a half-life of 24,400 years, which means that the wastes will remain lethal for some 240,000 years.

5. Earthquake Danger

Yucca Mountain is directly above an active magma pocket and is the third most seismically active area in the United States, with over 600 earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater on the Richter scale in the last 25 years alone. One such earthquake did over a million dollars worth of damage to the US Department of Energy’s own testing facility! The most recent earthquake on July 14, 2002 had a magnitude of 4.4.

6. Fifty Million People Endangered

Routes will move through 734 counties across the United States. The high-level radioactive waste contained in the casks will endanger 50 million innocent people who live within 3 miles of the proposed shipment routes. Hospitals, schools, businesses, emergency personnel, commuters, travelers, and passers-by will also cross paths with the shipments that will move through the country at an average rate exceeding six shipments per day. Community health facilities are not adequately prepared or equipped to deal with mass exposure to radioactive matter. To find out how close your residence or place of work is to the proposed routes, enter your address at .

7. Terrorist Attacks

The proposed shipments to Yucca Mountain would move along predictable routes through 44 states, and many major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta (daily shipments), Chicago (every 15 hours), Denver (every 13 hours), and Salt Lake City (every 7 hours). They would provide tempting targets for terrorists.

8. Costly Accidents and Limited Liability

For each spill that may occur (one out of every 300 shipments is expected to have an accident) the cost of the clean-up is estimated conservatively at $6 billion dollars. Thanks to Congress passing and repeatedly renewing the Price-Anderson Act, the nuclear industry’s liability is limited. Taxpayers will pay the bill for accidents even if they occur on reactor property.

9. Adverse Impact on Water Sources

Yucca Mountain sits above the only source of drinking water for the residents of Amargosa Valley. The aquifer below Yucca Mountain provides water to Nevada’s largest dairy farm, which supplies milk to some 30 million people on the west coast.

10. Violates Treaties

Yucca Mountain is located on Native American land, belonging to the Western Shoshone by the treaty of Ruby Valley. The Western Shoshone National Council has declared this land a nuclear free zone and demanded an end to nuclear testing and the dumping of nuclear wastes on their land.

It defies reason to expect that radioactive wastes will sit for tens of thousands of years undisturbed by unpredictable nature, by vengeful terrorists, or by human or technological errors in the design of the containment structure itself. The problem of what to do with high-level radioactive wastes warrants additional consideration and resources, including investigation of alternatives to Yucca Mountain. As an interim solution, the wastes should be converted to dry-cask storage and remain on-site where they were created.

1. Jaya Tiwari, “Time Running Out: Senate to Vote on Future of Yucca Mountain Project Soon,” Physicians for Social Responsibility Security Program Activist Update, (June 2002).
2. Western Shoshone National Council, “US Senate Vote Violates Treaty and Tribe’s Basic Human Rights,”(July 2002).
3. State of Nevada-Nuclear Projects Agency, Nuclear Neighborhoods, .
4. The Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, Office of the Governor, “A Mountain of Trouble: A Nation At Risk,” Volume 1, (February 2002).
5. Michael E. Long, “Half Life, The Lethal Legacy of America’s Nuclear Waste,” National Geographic, (July 2002).
6. Richard Wiles & James R. Cox, “What If…A Nuclear Waste Accident Scenario in Los Angeles, CA,” Environmental Working Groups,, (June 27, 2002).

*David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
*Marissa Zubia is the coordinator of the Foundation’s Renewable Energy Project.

©KARA Weekly Newsletter, June 2008

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UN Opens 1st Zero Emission Community Power Centre in Rural Kenya

Posted on 9 July 2008. Filed under: Development, Energy, Environment |

UNIDO8 July 2008 – The first power-generating centre using environmentally friendly hydro and solar power has been inaugurated in a Kenyan village 150 kilometres north east of Nairobi by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Apart from generating electricity, the new centre, in Kibai village in Kenya’s Kerugoya division, promotes the use of Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps to replace kerosene lamps that contribute to respiratory illnesses in children and women who use them on a daily basis.

Kibai villagers have begun using the centre for phone and lamp charging as well as accessing the internet, a rare phenomenon in rural Kenya, where only 10 per cent of the population has electricity.

UNIDO is calling on communities without access to electricity to submit proposals for similar initiatives in Kenya for consideration by international donors.

The project is part of the “Lighting Up Kenya” programme led by UNIDO and other UN agencies with the objective of eliminating kerosene from home lighting, and using electricity for income generation.

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Kenya Launches Renewable Energy Blueprint

Posted on 11 June 2008. Filed under: Energy, Environment, MDGs |

The Kenyan government has launched a blue print for promoting Kenya’s renewable energy sources while at the same time conserving non-renewable energy sources.

The Kenya Energy Sector Environment Program (KEEP) which was launched by six state corporations will promote efficient energy use and environmental conservation.

Speaking during the launch in Nairobi late Monday, Prime Minister Raila Odinga called on all stakeholders in the ambitious program to work towards growing more trees for wood fuel and for commercial purposes.

“KEEP should aim at phasing out importation of electricity poles in the next five years. The self sufficiency in the supply of electricity poles will at the same time provide good businesses for private entrepreneurs as well as reduce the cost of distributing electricity,” Odinga said.

The PM asked the ministry of energy to cushion the poor against high oil prices. He said the impact of high prices was being felt in all sectors of the economy, though the poor were the worst affected because they can’t afford basic commodities like food and kerosene.

Odinga said high cost of kerosene has forced the poor to rely on charcoal, leading to deforestation in water catchments like Mauforest, Cherangani Hills and Aberdare ranges.

“I have seen the destruction of more than 1,000 hectares of forest cover in Mau. The annual revenue loss from such destruction runs into tens of billions of shillings,” he said.

The government spends an average of 1 billion shillings a year to import electricity poles.

The prime minister said that the nation’s water catchment areas will be preserved despite the population pressure that is threatening to terminate them.

Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi said that the government would remove existing barriers and constrains to the adoption of efficiency and conservation technologies,

“KEEP will promote energy efficiency and conservation practices at institutional and domestic levels and will undertake other actions deemed necessary to achieve efficiency in energy utilization.

About 82 percent of urban households use charcoal, while wood fuel is the main source of energy in rural areas.

The charcoal industry employs more than 200,000 people and contributes over 32 billion shillings (about 516 million U.S. dollars) to the economy annually.

Odinga asked the ministry to regulate the industry and promote commercial tree growing. He also urged KPLC to stop importing poles.

KPLC has relied on imported poles for the last five years from Chile, Finland, South Africa and Tanzania. The company spends 1 billion shillings (16 million dollars) annually on the poles.

KenGen Managing Director, Eddy Njoroge, said the company would shift power generation from diesel to geothermal and hydropower. “We have taken a deliberate strategy to pursue renewable sources of power from our indigenous geothermal and hydro sources,” he said.

“About 85 percent of our planned new capacity will come from clean geothermal and hydro renewable sources,” he added.


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Biofuels and Biodiversity in Africa

Posted on 28 March 2008. Filed under: Energy, Environment |

You are not going to believe this but I swear, it’s a true story. Richard Leakey used to drive an old Land Rover that was powered by charcoal. There I’ve said it. I saw it, I swear, it had a massive black barrel attached at the back. On the side of the vehicle was the information that this vehicle ran on charcoal. I think it was steam powered…..if that’s at all possible. It didn’t go very fast and the idea didn’t’ catch on, but I suspect he was the first person in Kenya to begin thinking of alternative source of fuel for vehicles.

Today biofuels are the rage. Indeed, when Robert Williams offered to help WildlifeDirect with fund raising for an energy solution in the Congo he catalyzed a discussion about energy needs for internally displaced people, slums and urban people in Congo through ending charcoal.

Considering the cost and space/climate restrictions of producing biofuels in Europe and America, many firms are turning to Africa for production of their biofuels. Indeed the massive demand has sparked a green revolution in Africa and a frenzy of markets and producers of Jatropha, oil palm and other oilseed planting everywhere.

But today’s headlines are so completely confusing. African Non Government organizations are calling for a moratorium on biofuels in Africa.

Just last year we were calling Jatropha and other species miracle crops because they weren’t competing with food crops for production of biofuel . …well except one person, this writer in Zimbabwe called jatropha a red herring
and preempted the controversy about growing biofuel crops that is now raging everywhere. Even Ban Ki Moon has weighed in with a statement about food crises brought on by food shortages that are a result in part, to the land conversion for biofuels. Now that the UN Secretary General has said it, everyone is listening.

The call for a moratorium on production of biofuels in Africa may get people thinking but it just can’t work. Africa has failed to meet it’s millennium development goals, has not benefited in any significant ways from the Clean Development Mechanism and has never raised much furore over the fact that agricultural land is already being lost to erosion, pollution, the production of horticultural products and conversion of land to non edible crops like flowers for international markets.

Have any of you seen Hubert Sauper’s new documentary, Darwins Nightmare? My brother cried when he saw it. I hope he’s reading this – he’s not a wimp, I promise. The documentary reveals how the harvesting of fish in Lake Victoria is done by people who do not get to eat the fish, it’s all exported despite the fact that the local communities are suffering from malnutrition. The fish of interest are Nile perch, a species introduced by the British which has subsequently led to the extinction of over 300 native fish that the local communities depended on. You can watch a preview here and read reviews here. The film is about how people are dependent on this fish, and how the trade in the fish is responsible for so much suffering. This tragic story could just as easily be told about Jatropha.

Have we learned nothing from our mistakes? Of course not! The way I see it production of biofuel crops like Jatropha and other species will continue to expand because legislation in Africa is so behind the times that it’s not funny. To a poor traditional farmer scraping a living out in some remote region, the idea of producing crops for a big company seems lucrative, the contracts are long term, and that means cash in an otherwise subsistence existence. You can’t fault the farmers. Who doesn’t need cash nowadays?

As long as these communities are negotiating with big companies without complete information (which the brokers make sure happens) they will be cheated and I’ve seen this with my own eyes. One company came to Mombasa and offered communities what seemed like a lot of money but when calculated out it translated into a rate of about 30$ per acre per year for production of Jatropha.

These brokers are listed on NYSE and the London Stock Exchange and they have Corporate Social Responsibility credentials as long as my arm, because their only goal is to attract green investors. But it still has to be an attractive stock…so they push down the buying price of raw Jatropha, and install refineries for the oil and sell the refined products at a ludicrous profit. The farmers, who enter deals with someone who seems genuine, caring and credible. But once things are in place it all changes, it becomes a cut throat business and these farmers have converted land to Jatropha, tended it for years, and once the fruit are ripe, have no choice but to sell at very low prices – there is usually only one buyer in a particular area. Farmers have little option, they can’t eat Jatropha (it’s deadly poisonous), cant store it, or transport it – and they can’t complain because there are no real or enforceable laws protecting these farmers!

I suspect that as long as the international prices for biofuel remains at or above the price of fossil fuels, this will create a demand for production and business people will look to Africa where, lets face the truth WE ARE SO GULLIBLE it’s embarrassing. Fast talking, jargon juggling, smart suited powerpoint projecting expatriate brokers can boggle your mind and exploit local communities and befriend corrupt governments to win outrageous deals. I know of one guy who claims he has the state sanctioned monopoly on refining of Jatropha in Kenya! What a CAKE!

The fact that the land conversion to biofuels leads to hunger, diseases, land degradation or biodiversity loss is not a concern to alternative energy companies, they have PR people to talk their way out of it, they only care about maximum profits. After all, it drives up the price of shares and company value. It’s ironic then, that the same green investors who study the stocks and purchase shares in an effort to invest in clean air, are actually unwittingly contributing to the impoverishment and degradation of Africa.

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Global Warming by the Numbers

Posted on 18 February 2008. Filed under: Energy, Environment |

Global warming is the most serious environmental threat of our time.

As these facts show, affordable options are available. And America cannot afford to fall behind any more in the race to invent clean, renewable energy sources.


Increase in world’s solar generating capacity in 2005.


Rank of China as global producer of solar cells, behind Japan (U.S. ranks 4th).

$1.5 billion

Amount US government spends a year on renewable energy research.

$1 billion

ExxonMobil’s daily revenue.

$2 billion

Amount GE Energy Financial Services invested in wind, solar, biomass and geothermal energy in 2007.

$200 billion

Amount China has committed to invest in renewable energy sources over the next 15 years.


Projected cost of smart cap-and-trade climate policy on US economic output in 2030.


Projected growth of the US economy by 2030.


Number of senators supporting cap and trade legislation.

Number of bills passed by Congress to cap and reduce America’s global warming pollution.

Sources: World Watch Institute, Earth Policy Institute, Department of Energy, CNN, GE Energy Financial Services, Reuters, Upcoming Report: Climate Policy and the U.S. Economy. Environmental Defense, 2008

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UNEP Brews Up Green Energy Revolution in Tea and Sugar Industries

Posted on 9 November 2007. Filed under: Energy, Environment |

Global Environment Facility-Backed Projects to Harvest Power from Millions of Farmers across Eastern and Southern Africa

Cups of tea are becoming more environmentally-friendly courtesy of a new UNEP-led initiative, announced today to deliver small-scale hydro electric power to plantations across East Africa.

Those who enjoy a spoonful of sugar in their favourite day time drink have double-cause to celebrate. In a separate but related initiative, sugar farmers will take part in a cogeneration project funded by the Global Environment Facility. Farmers will use waste from the sugar industry to generate electricity, in turn fuelling economic and rural growth in an environmentally safer way.

These GEF-funded projects build on the successes with cogeneration in the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, where up to 40 per cent of the country’s electricity needs are met by waste by-products from the sugar industry.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said today: “Tea is known to be good for you, now it is also getting better for the environment. The decision by some countries in East Africa to establish Power Purchase Agreements – contracts that allow unconventional generators of electricity to sell surplus power back to the Grid – has opened up a raft of new opportunities for cleaner and renewable energy generation”.

Monique Barbut, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility, said this latest partnership between GEF and UNEP is a concrete example of how under the right government policy framework, sustainable development can work, and does work.

“These two new UNEP-led projects showcase the multiple benefits sustainable development can have for rural areas, offering social, economic and environmental benefits that help locally and globally, ” she said.

Barbut and Steiner noted that the two new projects, announced today, offer the chance to develop new forms of indigenous energy generation that will assist with development in rural areas and help overcome poverty; reduce dependency on often imported and expensive fossil fuels while having the spin off benefit of contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gases.

The importance of harnessing alternative forms of energy generation is highlighted in the latest assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and UNEP’s new state of the world environment report – the recently launched Global Environment Outlook-4.

“In December, in Bali, governments will meet to define the ground rules for a new international emissions reductions regime to kick in post 2012.UNEP’s slogan is ‘Transition to a Low Carbon Society’-this is a transition that is just as important for developing and for developed countries. There is no reason why nations of the South must or should follow the dirty development paths of the past,” said Mr Steiner.

The two pioneering initiatives – Cogeneration for Africa and Small Hydro for Greening the Tea Industry are being spearheaded by UNEP with the African Development Bank as co-implementer, supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

The projects, worth around $100 million in total, are also being executed by the East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA) and the Energy, Environment and Development Network for Africa(AFREPREN/FWD).

Greening the Tea industry

The small-scale hydro initiative is expected to reach over 8 million people in the tea industry – a principal source of convertible currency for Eastern and Southern Africa.

With an initial target of 10MW of small hydro, the project is eventually expected to stimulate 82MW of small hydro capacity in the region. Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia are among the countries which have already endorsed this initiative.

As well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the hydro power will reduce energy costs, enhance the African tea industry’s global competitiveness, and spread clean electricity to rural communities. In the long run, the scheme will also set the stage for the development of a vibrant local industry for hydro design, manufacturing, operation and maintenance.

Cogeneration for Africa

This first-of-its-kind project is designed to boost cogeneration – the use of agricultural waste to produce energy – across Eastern and Southern Africa. The scheme will aim to reach around 10 million sugar farmers and their dependants in Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania and Swaziland.

The initiative is expected to bring on stream 60MW of cleaner power generation capacity in its initial pilot phase, and eventually set the stage for the installation of over 200MW of cogeneration capacity across the region.

By relying on low-cost, renewable indigenous fuels such as sugar byproducts and offcuts from the timber industry, these cogeneration units will cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy costs for the region’s agro-processing and forest industries. They will also enhance the competitiveness of the region’s farm and forestry products, boost investment in the region and set the stage for rural electrification in the region.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is an international financial mechanism with 178 member countries that addresses global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives. GEF grants support projects in developing countries related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer and persistent organic pollutants. Since its inception in 1991, GEF has achieved a strong track record of support to developing countries and countries with economies in transition, providing $6.2 billion in grants and leveraging $20 billion in co-financing for over 1,800 projects in over 150 countries. Through its Small Grants Programme (SGP), GEF has also made more than 7,000 small grants, up to $50,000 each, directly to nongovernmental organizations and community organizations.

UNEP is involved in a series of projects to address environmental consequences of energy production and use, and assists decision-makers in governments and the private sector to make better, more informed energy choices which fully integrate environmental and social costs.

GEO-4, which was released on 25 October, is the latest in a series of flagship UNEP reports assessing the current state of the global atmosphere, land, water and biodiversity. It is the most comprehensive UN report on the environment, prepared by about 390 experts and reviewed by more than 1,000 others across the world over a five-year period.

For more information on the projects, go to:

Or contact:

Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, at tel: +254 20 762 3084, mobile: +254 733 632755, or: +41 795965737, or e-mail: Anne-France White, Associate Information Officer, at tel: +254 20 762 3088, or e-mail:

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    A blog created to cover environmental and political information in Kenya with a view to promoting POVERTY ALLEVIATION through creating awareness of the Millennium Development Goals


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