The United States and the Republic of Ghana have signed a nuclear cooperation memorandum of understanding. The NCMOU is a diplomatic instrument that, according to the U.S. State Department, strengthens and expands “strategic ties between the United States and a partner country by providing a framework for cooperation on civil nuclear issues and for engagement between experts from government, industry, national laboratories, and academic institutions.”
Signing the document on July 13 were C.S. Eliot Kang, the senior U.S. official for arms control and international security, and Kwaku Ampratwum Sarpong, Ghana’s deputy minister for foreign affairs and regional integration.
In a media note on the signing, the State Department referred to the “long-standing cooperation” between the United States and Ghana “in the fields of security, energy, and commerce,” adding that “cooperation in nuclear energy, science, and technology can lead to significant contributions to clean energy, agricultural improvements, clean water, advanced medical treatments, and more.”
Ghana go nuclear? While home to the GHARR-1, a Chinese miniature neutron source reactor, which in July 2017 was converted from the use of high-enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium (NN, Sept. 2017, p. 27], Ghana has no power reactors, relying instead on hydro, thermal (fueled by crude oil), natural gas, diesel, and solar for its electricity generation.
In September 2012, however, the Ghanaian government established the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Organisation (GNPPO) to coordinate the activities necessary for the introduction of nuclear power into the country’s energy mix. By 2016, Ghana had a Nuclear Regulatory Authority in operation to address nuclear safety and security, safeguards, and civil liability for nuclear damage.
An evaluation of Ghana’s infrastructure for nuclear power, based on International Atomic Energy Agency methodology, was performed by the GNPPO and sent to the IAEA in December 2016. A Phase 1 Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission by the IAEA quickly followed, concluding that Ghana had made “considerable progress in the development of its nuclear power infrastructure.”
A second INIR mission was conducted in 2019, eliciting favorable comments from the INIR team’s leader, Anthony Stott. “It is evident that Ghana has made a concerted effort to address the recommendations and suggestions our team made two and half years ago,” said Stott. “The main preparatory work needed for the government to be able to commit to go forward with the nuclear power program has been done. What remains is further consideration of certain options to ensure Ghana is well prepared for discussions with vendors and other potential partners.”