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Since Ghana gained independence in 1957, the issue of further development and strengthening of Ghanaian statehood has arisen, which is impossible without building a strong economic system based on a developed industrial complex.
The choice of which industry to develop was predetermined – the nature generously strewed the Ghanaian land with bauxite deposits – the raw materials for the production of aluminum. But for the industrial production and the development of the aluminium industry, a large amount of cheap electricity was required.
The government went in two ways:
– the first was to construct hydropower stations (a well-known Akosombo Dam project);
– the second was to develop ultra-modern at that time nuclear energy.
Thus, on February 28th, 1961, in Moscow, the USSR and the Republic of Ghana signed an intergovernmental “Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy”.
The agreement stipulated that the USSR would provide technical assistance to the Republic of Ghana in the construction of a nuclear research reactor, an isotope laboratory, a workshop and other auxiliary facilities in accordance with the project as well as the training of Ghanaian national personnel for the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
In order to implement it, the relevant Soviet organizations were obliged
– to carry out the design work, supply fuel elements to start up the reactor, equipment and instruments as well as materials not available in Ghana, required
to construct an “IRT-2000” nuclear reactor (thermal power up to 2000 kW),
and one hot cell;
– to send Soviet specialists to Ghana for rendering technical assistance
in selecting construction site, gathering basic data for designing, constructing
the abovementioned reactor, assembling, adjusting and putting into operation equipment, supplied from the USSR, as well as to train Ghanaian specialists
and supervise the operation of the reactor within one year after its start up;
– to assist in the foundation of the isotope laboratory with a capacity of 300 Ci per year (for finished products), a mechanical workshop and auxiliary facilities, boiler and refrigeration units, an electrical substation, a radioactive waste disposal station and other facilities (a total of 23 facilities) by performing the designing work;
– to provide advisory and consulting assistance to Ghanaian research organizations in developing their programmes for research and experimental work in the field of peaceful uses of atomic energy;
– to provide technical assistance to Ghana in the establishment of a Nuclear Research Centre;
– to accept Ghanaian specialists on the peaceful use of nuclear energy for training (internship) in the USSR.
On October 27th, 1961, as a follow-up to this Agreement, a contract was signed in Accra between the “Technopromexport” and the Ghanaian side, which provided for the obligations of the parties to supply equipment for the nuclear centre, a business trip to Ghana of Soviet specialists, and the admission of Ghanaian specialists for training to the Soviet relevant institutes.
The secondment of specialists and the supply of equipment had to be provided in time by agreement of the competent organizations of the parties.
The construction of the Nuclear Research Centre, as well as installation and commissioning works were carried out under the technical supervision of the Soviet specialists.
It is worth mentioning that, unlike the Akosombo Dam project, which actually pushed Ghana into the stranglehold of neocolonialism (Ghana’s government was compelled, by contract, to pay for over 50% of the cost of Akosombo’s construction, but the country was allowed only 20% of the power generated, the remaining 80% was generated for VALCO, owned by the American Kaiser Aluminum company) the Soviet Union did not pursue the goal of extracting super profits at the expense of the Ghanaian side. On the contrary, the cost of the works provided under the Agreement was defined on the terms of the Soviet-Ghana Trade Agreement, which granted “the most-favoured nation treatment in respect of all matters related to trade between the two countries”.
So, on December 27th, 1965, a bilateral Protocol was signed in Moscow
on the completion of the main supplies of equipment for the Nuclear Research Centre and on the fulfillment of the Contract’s obligations by the Soviet side.
It is important to say, that during constructing nuclear centres in developing countries, the Soviet Union paid serious attention to protecting the environment and establishing reliable control over the radiation situation around them. That is why
in April 1965 a radioactive fallout tracking station was commissioned in Ghana.
Soviet scientists assisted Ghanaian specialists and advised them during
the construction, installation and commissioning of equipment, provided technical assistance during the construction of a radioactive fallout monitoring station, supervised compliance with the requirements of the Nuclear Research Centre project.
In 1965, a prominent Soviet atomic scientist Mr. Daniil Simonenko came to Ghana
to lecture at the Legon University for the local atomic researchers.
By that time, all the parts of the fully functional reactor were transported
to Accra ready to be assembled and launched. But unfortunately, the Ghanaian dream for a better future failed to come true. Due to overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of independent Ghana, in 1966 the construction of the Nuclear Centre was frozen and postponed.
Only after almost 11 years, in 1976, the Government of Ghana appealed to the USSR to complete the construction of the Centre. Considering that quite a long time has passed since the delivery of the reactor and the building of auxiliary facilities, the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission has raised the issue of upgrading the reactor with an increase in its capacity to 5000 kW. The Soviet leadership decided to conduct a full-fledged audit of the equipment, as well as the previously constructed buildings and premises, and to resume work on the finishing of the Ghana Nuclear Research Centre with a modernized research reactor in the second phase.
However, in 1979 due to accumulated social tension over the difficult economic situation in the country, which resulted in the series of military coups,
and the subsequent reorientation of the new Ghanaian leadership to internal problems, the cooperation in the nuclear field was mothballed once again for a very long time.
Only in 2015, during the second session of the Ghana-Russia Permanent Joint Commission for Cooperation (PJCC) the two countries returned to this vital issue and struck another intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the field
of the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. The document stipulates the elaboration of the Project Development Agreement, which is aimed at the construction of a Nuclear Power Plant and the Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology in Ghana. Its realization was entrusted to the Joint Coordination Committee.
In August 2022, a delegation of the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom came to Ghana with a working visit and made a presentation of an ultra-modern nuclear technology no one else has at the world market: small modular reactors (SMRs) and floating nuclear power plants (FNPP). The both sides agreed to establish a Joint Working Group to coordinate and exchange information regarding Russian modern technological solutions that would perfectly fit
the Ghana’s strategic plans to move to cleaner energy.
Would Ghana use this chance to make its dream come true and obtain
“the electricity independence” or not is entirely up to the Government.
But as the history shows delays may be expensive.