DAR-ES-SALAAM, East African Community (EAC) member nations have been urged to explore alternative energy sources, including solar, rather than opting for nuclear power plants, which may pose a serious threat to the environment and the economy.

Tanzania enacted its Atomic Energy Act of 2003, permitting the use of its uranium reserves to produce electricity while neighbouring Kenya has announced it aims to build a 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant between 2017 and 2022, and Uganda is targeting its first nuclear power plant by 2034.

Alarmed by the increasing demand for electricity for domestic and industrial use, the EAC member states have been compelled to seek other possible sources to address the energy crisis, with nuclear being the latest.

Addressing the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists on Climate Change Primer: Responding To Global Impacts Of Human Activity at the University of California, Berkeley, recently, Daniel Kammen, professor of energy at the institution, emphatically stated: Nuclear should be the last option,

If nuclear power was cost effective, quick to build and safe, it could be a wonderful ally in fighting climate change; unfortunately today, nuclear power is much more expensive, long to build and risks are high."

The nuclear energy expert, who has conducted a number of studies on energy in Tanzania and Kenya, advised the East African countries to learn from the United States which has started shutting down its nuclear power plants. California, for instance, leads the US in responding to global climate change as it tries to create a clean-energy economy, ameliorate the effects of global change and promote green businesses for the future.

It has replaced over 50 per cent of its nuclear power with solar energy. Prof Kammen acknowledged that some new technologies had been researched but they were not in a position to tackle climate change challenges.

He said studies at the University of Nairobi's Chiromo campus on the viability of solar, wind and geothermal enegy, shows that clean energy countries do not need nuclear energy. Kenya is shifting from hydro-electric power projects because of the worries of droughts.

Hydro-power projects will use a smaller amount of our energy in future. It is misguided that it is secure but as we look at the variability of rainfall, the need to preserve water for land and agriculture means it will no longer be an option for large hydro projects.

The expert advised the EAC member countries to alternatively invest in solar, biomass, wind and geothermal projects, saying they were plenty to meet the region's power demand for decades.

In October 2016, Russia's nuclear energy agency, Rosatom, announced it was planning to start developing nuclear energy in Tanzania following discovery of uranium in Mkuju River along the Selous Game Reserve. Like in Kenya and Uganda, Tanzania's dream is to have its nuclear power plant by 2025, to be built at a cost of at least 4.0 billion US dollars.