The Promise of a Nuclear Power Plant in Ghana

Helen Gambrah
March 9, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2017


Fig. 1: Access to electricity among urban and rural areas (Source: H. Gambrah).

At the current moment, there are no nuclear power plants in Ghana. Despite electricity generation being one of the key factors that contributes to the development of the Ghanaian national economy, plans for a nuclear power plant have fallen through repeatedly. Consequently, severe electricity outages plague the country. The Ghana Atomic Energy Commission plans to begin building a power plant in Ghana in 2018 with estimated completion in eight years.

Ghana secured independence from Britain in 1957 - the same year that the very first commercial nuclear power plant in the United State was built. Acknowledging this significant disparity in country development, it is easy to understand that electrical advancements were not of priority for the Ghanaian government. Nevertheless, the first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, created the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission in 1963 and initiated the plans for the Ghana Nuclear Reactor Project (GNRP) on November 25th, 1964. [1] The project aimed to utilize the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology and contribute to education, research, electricity resources, and more. Nkrumah even laid the first stone for the atomic energy building. However, in February of 1966, his administration was overthrown by a military coup d'etat, and the plans for nuclear energy use were abandoned and forgotten.

Energy Shortages

One of the major challenges facing Ghana is the generation of adequate and affordable electricity to meet increasing demand. The electricity demand has been estimated to be growing at a rate of about 7% per annum over the last ten years. [2] Furthermore, Ghana has a population of 25 million with a growing rate of 2.1%. Ghana subsists on 2,450 megawatts (MW) of installed generation capacity, including 546 MW of generation from independent power producers (IPPs). [2] However, the availability for utilization does not exceed 2000 MW. Furthermore, the energy generation system is currently comprised of hydropower (65%) and thermal power plants (35%). [2] The hydropower energy source is susceptible to erratic functioning due to drought while the thermal power system is fueled by crude oil which makes it expensive to run. This leaves Ghanaian residents with an overall 74% access rate to electricity and 52% in rural areas as shown in Fig. 1. This inaccessibility has translated to a phenomenon colloquially named "dumsor" by Ghanaian locals. Dumsor literally translates to "off and on" but now describes the persistent electricity outages experienced by many in the country. These outages have not only affected Ghanaian individuals socially and economically but also mentally and academically. [3,4] The various issues warrant the need for an alternative energy source to supplement the existing resources in the electricity sector. Ghana as a collective has decided that a nuclear power plant is appropriate and necessary.

Future of the Power Plant

Ghana's slated nuclear power plant would be the first of its kind in all of Africa. As of January 2017, Ghana has been approved in all the 19 infrastructural issues to be considered prior to the commencement of the operation of a Nuclear Power Programme (NPP). [5] However, a significant obstacle to the NPP project is funding. Obtaining the necessary funds will not be an easy feat for Ghana. Furthermore, industrialization levels in Ghana are low, which poses other roadblocks to completion of the project. Nevertheless, the nuclear power plant has the potential to play a critical role in sustainable development of the country and alleviate some of the energy issues in Ghana.

© Helen Gambrah. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] H. Fuller, "Father of the Nation: Ghanaian Nationalism, Internationalism and the Political Iconography of Kwame Nkrumah, 1957 - 2010," African Studies Quarterly 16, No. 1, 33 (December 2015).

[2] M. E. Eshun and J. Amoako-Tuffour, "A Review of the Trends in Ghana's Power Sector," Energy, Sustainability and Society 6, 9 (2016).

[3] E. Y. Danso-Wiredu, Y. I. Dadson, and F. O. Amoako-Andoh, "Social, Economic and Environmental Impacts of the Recent Electricity Crisis in Ghana: A Study of Winneba," J. Soc. Sci. 49 277 (2016).

[4] A. Ibrahim et al., "Erratic Electricity Supply (Dumsor) and Anxiety Disorders Among University Students in Ghana: A Cross Sectional Study," Int. J. Ment. Health Syst. 10, 17 (2016).

[5] G. Frimpomaa, "IAEA Commends Ghana's Nuclear Infrastructure Development," The Ghanaian Times, 26 Jan 17.