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Namibia: Uranium Rich,But Energy Poor …Towards energy security

By:Kuiri F Tjipangandjara (D Sci Eng)
Indeed, the future looks bright for the Namibian uranium industry.
The world has big hunger and thirst for uranium. What is encouraging is the fact that both the uranium prices (spot ad contract) are on the increase. Whilst meeting the global demand for uranium, Namibia can explore the windfall from the resurging nuclear industry to address socio-economic challenges facing the country.
Namibia cannot remain an exporter of the yellow cake only. Namibia must take a step further and talk about uranium enrichment and nuclear energy.
Namibia has a solid ground to operate from, owing to its vast uranium reserves (close to 0.5bn tonnes of U3O8), and being ranked in 2 and 3 position as a uranium producing country (during the past 3 years).
Increased investments in the nuclear industry by Namibia – covering the entire value chain – is the most viable option, given the country’s experience in uranium mining and ore beneficiation spanning close to 50 years. Currently, there are two uranium mines in operation, two under care-and-maintenance, and 6 projects under construction. Interestingly, for the first time on the African Continent, there are some ground breaking works on in-situ uranium mining. Definitely, there is a good opportunity for Namibians to invest in the uranium mining industry and acquire some ownership, as opposed to remaining just mere employees and spectators.
Namibia is facing enormous challenges such as low economic growth, high rates of unemployment, little foreign earnings, huge trade deficit, and high capital flight because of electricity imports. The present state of poor energy security impacts negatively on both national water security and food security. It is a major hindrance to sustainable employment creation, and it is a disincentive for investments and industrialisation.
Given these challenges, Namibia cannot effort to embark on risky energy projects that yield little returns and benefits. Also, Namibia must not allow herself to become an experimental laboratory for unproven, costly and risky energy technologies.
Without any doubt, the honeymoon about weather-dependent renewables as replacement for nuclear energy is over. The world has accepted that nuclear energy is a reliable source, as evidenced by increased exploration works for uranium, investments in new mines and planned development for new nuclear plants.
Namibia’s participation in the nuclear industry cannot be limited only to the EPL holders, BEE groupings or the few individuals with proximity to power. There is a need for a broader participation of Namibians in this important industry. Else, the country will perpetuate a situation whereby “a herdsman claims greater ownership or benefit from the cattle he tends” – Extract from the Speech by President Masisi (The Botswana Gazette, May 2023).
For Namibia to position itself and to play a leading role in the energy sector – critical to this matter are: revised policy on optimal utilisation of earth sources; new policy directives on increased national participation and ownership; prioritised investments in nuclear energy; setting-up of post-mining site rehabilitation fund; maximisation of benefits to the regional and local entities (where mining activities impacts severely); human capacity development; guided research, development and application works; and equity.
It is evident that we cannot keep on depending on South Africa for energy. We cannot have vast deposits of uranium and remain energy poor Similarly, one cannot sit at the banks of a flowing river and washes one’s face with saliva (borrowed from a Nigerian friend).Something must be done!
There are many benefits to Namibia, if the country embarks on a comprehensive nuclear energy programme:
− A nuclear energy plant is to be set up at Cape Frio for the generation and provision of electricity for domestic uses and export.
− Shareholders to this nuclear project will be the successful developer Namibian uranium mining companies, local entities and individuals.
− This nuclear plant will provide power for the desalination plant(s), which in turn will produce much-needed water for the mighty Kunene region.
− Availability of water and energy will promote mineral exploration and development, agricultural and tourism activities in the two Kunene region.
− The availability of power and water at Cape Frio will be an incentive for successful oil companies to set up oil refineries away from the congested Walvis Bay and Lüderitz harbours.
− In the spirit of SADC’s regional economic integration and cooperation, oil refineries at Cape Frio can be availed to companies operating in Angola.
− Availability of power and water at Cape Frio will be an incentive for some fishing companies to set up processing facilities in this harbour town – close to the northern fishing grounds.
− Availability of power and water at Cape Frio can expand human settlements, agricultural activities (crop production and livestock) in parts of Kunene region, that were considered hitherto inhospitable.
− Availability of water and electricity at Cape Frio will be the anchor for the accelerated development of this northern harbour town.
− Increased retention of funds in the country that have been used for purchase of electricity and income to Namibia from the sale of excess electricity to the neighboring countries, are some of the economic benefits.
Any project that will help Namibia to realise energy security, and subsequently water security and food security will promote industrialisation and sustainable employment creations.
The language to be spoken in Namibia must be:The Future is Nuclear Energy!
This piece was dedicated to Engineer Siseho Simasiku (1947 – 2016) – for his vision on nuclear energy.

Staff Writer

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