USA announces new cooperation to support Ghana SMR plans

03 June 2024

The signature of two key arrangements facilitated by the US Foundational Infrastructure for the Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) Program to advance deployment of a small modular reactor (SMR) in Ghana and establish the country as a regional SMR hub were announced at the Africa Nuclear Business Platform meeting in Accra on May 28.

US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Ann Ganzer joined industry and government representatives at the MoU signing ceremony (Image: US Embassy in Ghana)

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) and contractual arrangements for the provision of a NuScale Energy Exploration (E2) Centre and related services at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) were signed by GAEC, Kazakhstan-based intergovernmental science organisation the International Science and Technology Center and NuScale.

NuScale's E2 Centres use computer modelling within a control room simulator for a VOYGR-12 SMR power plant to give users a hands-on opportunity to apply nuclear science and engineering principles through simulated, real-world nuclear power plant operation scenarios. Four E2 Centres have opened in the USA, and international E2 Centres have been opened in Bucharest in Romania and Seoul in South Korea.

The deployment of an E2 Centre in Ghana would be a first for the African continent and would provide a key tool for preparing the workforce for SMR deployment in Ghana and beyond, according to the US Embassy in Ghana. It will also establish Ghana as a regional educational and training hub for the next stage of safe and secure civil nuclear deployments in Africa, consistent with International Atomic Energy Agency’s Milestones Approach and nonproliferation standards, the embassy said.

A MoU for a regional welding certification programme between GAEC and the International Science and Technology Center will provide essential training and a unique skillset to enable Ghanaian technicians to qualify for construction jobs in the nuclear energy sector. Funded by the FIRST Program, this certification programme will help to establish Ghana as part of a safe and secure SMR supply chain in the region.

The Government of Ghana, through Nuclear Power Ghana, is also working on a cooperation agreement with project developer Regnum Technology Group LLC to develop an "industrial enclave" using a NuScale SMR nuclear power plant as its main source of energy, the embassy said. "The US government strongly supports the deployment of NuScale's technology through Regnum Technology Group as a project developer in Ghana and looks forward to seeing the conclusion of this agreement," it added.

"The United States is also currently in negotiations with Ghana for a peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement (or 123 agreement) and looks forward to concluding negotiations to enable closer cooperation in this important field."

A cooperation agreement is needed before the USA can trade nuclear goods and services with Ghana: these are known as 123 Agreements after the paragraph of the USA's 1954 Atomic Energy Act under which they are required.

The announcements build on a 2022 strategic collaboration between the USA, Japan and Ghana to support the deployment of SMRs in Ghana and build jobs through workforce development to support future SMR supply chain needs.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News