May 26, 2024

The Uyombo community, Right Energy Partnership with Indigenous Peoples (REP), Centre for Justice, Governance, and Environmental Action(CJGEA), Friends of Lake Turkana  and the undersigned express grave concern on the proposed nuclear power plant in Uyombo, Kilifi County. This proposed nuclear power plant threatens to displace the Uyombo community from their traditional land  including the forests, severing their connection to their heritage and sources of livelihood of which majority are fisherfolks. Such displacement would lead to the disintegration of traditional knowledge and practices that have been passed down through generations, eroding the cultural fabric of the community.

The proposed nuclear power plant will have a capacity of 1000MW with a budget of Ksh 500 billion to be implemented by the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA). The establishment of a nuclear power plant in Uyombo poses severe risks to the environment, public health, and the socio-economic fabric of the community. Uranium, used in nuclear reactors, is highly toxic and poses long-term health risks, including cancer and genetic mutations. Accidental releases of radioactive materials could result in severe environmental contamination, leading to irreversible ecological damage and long-lasting health effects to the community.

The proposed site for the nuclear power plant is adjacent to Arabuko-Sokoke forest, which is the largest remaining Coastal forest in East Africa, and sensitive marine ecosystems including Watamu Marine National Park and Mida Creek mangrove forest, which are vital for biodiversity and the livelihoods of the Uyombo community. The potential for thermal pollution and ecological disruption poses a significant threat to these critical habitats, endangering wildlife.

Kenya’s failure to ratify the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage further exacerbates the situation, leaving the community without assurances for compensation in case of nuclear incidents. Additionally, the absence of a robust remediation policy and radioactive waste management framework raises serious concerns about the handling of potential nuclear spills, which could have catastrophic consequences for the Uyombo community and the broader region.

The Uyombo community has been misled about the benefits of the nuclear power plant, with promises of employment and educational opportunities that do not address the inherent risks. Furthermore, Kilifi County’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks heightens the risks associated with establishing a nuclear facility in this area, posing severe dangers to both human and marine life.

The Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA) report used to justify the project lacks credibility, as it was not conducted by experts in nuclear energy and radioactive waste management. This calls into question the validity of the findings and recommendations, underscoring the need for a thorough and professional assessment.

We strongly condemn the recent violence and arrests against those opposing the project and call for the Kenyan government to listen and address the concerns of the Uyombo peoples before the situation escalates. 

With the concerns raised above, we call on the Kenyan government to:

  • Heed the concerns of  the affected Uyombo community and abort the planned construction of a nuclear power plant in Kilifi county;
  • Ensure  the proper implementation of the right to be involved in decision making of the affected Uyombo peoples  in relation to the proposed nuclear power plant and all future projects that will be implemented that affects them or their environment. This is crucial in ensuring that any development project respects the autonomy and cultural heritage of communities.;
  • Rechannel funds allocated for the construction of a nuclear power plant to instead support community led renewable energy projects that encompasses the peoples self-determined development; and
  • Establish a comprehensive legal framework for nuclear energy projects, including robust safeguards to ensure environmental, social, and cultural protection.

Finally, we call on the government of Kenya to navigate towards a just and sustainable transition to clean energy that respects the rights and dignity of the people and the planet.

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