ACCRA - The United States and Russia are locked in a race against China, France, and South Korea to build the first nuclear power plant in Ghana.

The West African country is among several nations on the continent looking to nuclear power as a low carbon source of energy as they seek to broaden access to electricity.

Ghana is turning to nuclear power to complement its existing mix of hydro, thermal, and renewable energy. The winner of the ongoing bidding process will be announced at the end of 2024 by outgoing president Nana Akufo-Addo, Stephen Yamoah, executive director of Nuclear Power Ghana, which is supervising the project, told Semafor Africa.

Yamoah said Ghana would miss its target to build the plant by 2030 because “we still haven’t settled on a vendor.” Construction is due to begin in 2026 and is expected to take five years.

Ghana is projecting that nuclear energy will make up 5% of the country’s energy mix by 2030 and 35% by 2070, according to Dr. Robert Sogbadzie, deputy director of power at the Ministry of Energy. “Every country is coming in based on its proposal,” he said, stressing that the cost and technology used will be the determining factors, rather than politics.

South Africa has the continent’s only nuclear power plant, but Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya have in the last year announced plans to develop nuclear infrastructure.

Ghana laid out its current nuclear plans in 2015. Electricity demand is estimated to have grown by 7% to 10% a year since 2010, according to Ghana’s energy ministry. As of 2020, 85% of the population had access to electricity.

The current nuclear program took off in 2008 after a nationwide power crisis in 2006 and 2007. The plan then was to have a nuclear power plant by 2018, but that target was revised due to a lack of political and financial commitment from successive governments. “Having an interest in pursuing a nuclear program is one thing, and understanding what it takes to pursue a nuclear program is another thing,” said Yamoah.