Powering Namibia by Nuclear Energy


Prof. Monish Gunawardana

Darkness to Light
According to the Bible and ancient Indian epic the Rig Veda, the earth was engulfed in the darkness and God (Brahma) created a Divine Nuclear Power Plant (Sun) to dispel the darkness and sustain the life of our planet. Thereafter, our ancestors invented the “Fire” around 40 000 years ago. For all ancient civilizations, the energy was a divine creation. In the last two hundred years, we used wood, coal, hydropower, fossil oil, and natural gas to generate energy. These energy sources have enlightened our civilization. And, it will.

Power Hungry
The world’s demand for energy will grow by 3.2 percent in this year and the fuel prices will fluctuate around US$60-80 a barrel. Record oil prices are fuelling an economic boom in the Middle East and their oil-export revenue will reach US$305 billion in 2006. However, the many developing countries spent all their fortunes to import fuel. For instance, the total export earning of Sri Lanka from tea, rubber and coconut is nearly US$1 billion and the fuel bill for 2005 was US$1.3 billion. The annual fuel bill is more than Sri Lanka’s earnings from agricultural exports. As Timothy Adams, the US Undersecretary for International Affairs said, “The elevated energy prices are a risk to global economic growth.”

Rational Policies
Developing countries are largely dependent on imports for their energy requirements. The highly industrialized economies like the United States, Japan, South Korea and emerging economic giants such as China and India demand huge amounts of energy to run their booming industries and service sectors. It took the world 125 years to use the first trillion barrel of oil and we will use the next trillion in 2035.

As of now, the world’s energy resources are decreasing and the demand is spiralling. Therefore, each country should take an audit of available energy resources and future energy demand to design a sustainable and rational energy policy in the following manner:

(l) Forecasting future energy demands in relation to development plans.

(2) Ensuring the sustainability of economic growth and reducing socio-economic disparities.

(3) Identifying the reliable, eco-friendly and sustainable Core Energy Source (CES) {e.g. fossil oil, coal, hydro-electricity or nuclear energy}.

(4) Classifying Supplementary Energy Sources (SES){e.g. renewable, solar, wind, biogas or thermal power}.

(5) Promoting rational and energy efficient technologies for industries, agriculture, the service sector, transportation, buildings and household appliances.

(6) Investing in research and development on new energies and energy management techniques.

Energy Knots
Coal is responsible for 40 percent of the global energy needs. It releases vast amounts of carbon dioxide. Around 20 percent of global energy derives from big hydropower stations. However, the climate changes have begun to weaken more rivers that turn turbines. The fossil oil provides 7 percent of energy and its price tag is unbearable for the developing countries.

Anyhow, their contributions to the national energy-base will remain below 15 percent. This reality demands us to explore sustainable and clean core energy sources like nuclear power to maintain their economic growth and competitiveness.

Nuclear Power
The massive industrial bases and growing human needs of the world demand reliable, sustainable and clean energy sources to retain and drive socioeconomic development. Bruno Lescocour, vice-president of the Electricite de France (EDF) believes a carbon-dioxide free power as its energy mix is 70 percent carbon free with 50 percent nuclear and 20 percent renewables. The core energy source of this energy mixture is nuclear energy. Hence, the ‘global power hunger’ can be addressed by the Nuclear-Based Energy Mix (NBEM).

Nuclear power was forgotten in the previous century and in the face of the energy, crisis nations are compelled to revisit it. As the table shows the highly developed industrial economies such as USA, Japan, Canada, Germany and the UK are heavily reliant on nuclear energy. For instance, China’s heated economy has threatened to surpass its energy supply. Now China is planning to build 30 nuclear reactors by 2020.

South Africa is the only country in Africa that has a nuclear reactor (Pebble Bed Modular Reactor PBMR) at Koeberg. And, it provides 1 800 MW at full production. Tabling the budget for the 2007/8 financial years, the finance minister of South Africa, Trevor Manuel, has cited “our commitment to finance 51% of the capital requirements to the PMBR project over the next three years amounts to R6-billion.” Moreover, South Africa Public Enterprises Minister of South Africa, Alec Erwin, is planning for another 24 pocket nuclear power stations by 2025.

Furthermore, the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA) expects electricity generated from nuclear energy to increase by 25 000 MW by 2025 and this bold effort will cost R100 billion.

Nations powered by Nuclear Energy-2006
(Source: Newsweek, 06 Feb. 2006)
Country Nuclear Plants Share of Electricity Generated %
France 59 78
South Korea 20 38
Germany 17 32
Japan 56 30
USA 104 20
UK 23 19
Russia 31 16
Canada 18 15
India 15 03
China 09 02

Strategic Uranium
The uranium is the next generation’s strategic mineral. The nuclear energy originates from splitting atoms of radioactive material such as uranium. It is a rare mineral found in few countries in the world. As the table highlights, Namibia was the fifth largest uranium producer of the world in 2005 (www.world-nuclear.org)

Country Production World
Tons Supply %
1. Canada 11,628 28%
2. Australia 9,519 23%
3. Kazakhstan 4,357 10%
4. Russia 3431 8%
5. Namibia 3147 8%
6. Niger 3093 7.4%
7. Uzbekistan 2300 5.5%
8. USA 1039 2.5%
9. Ukraine 800 2%
10. China 750 1.6%
11. South Africa 674 1.5%
12. Czech. Republic 408 0.9%
13. India 230 0.6%
14. Romania 90 0.2%
15. Germany 77 0.2%
16. Pakistan 45 0.1%
17. France 07 0.02%
Total Production 41595 100%
The big producers of uranium are Canada and Australia. Their mines produce 51% of the global supply. Even though,78% of France’s power supply comes from nuclear energy, they produce only 7 tons to fuel their nuclear reactors. As of today, highly industrialized nations and emerging economies are eying uranium to fuel their economic engine. Moreover, Namibia should follow the global trend and use indigenous uranium to establish nuclear power stations to fuel the Vision 2030 engine.

Moreover, Namibia should turn into a nuclear power supplier for the SADC region. But, Namibia should not rush to sell all uranium at the exiting low price tag. This nation should use this strategic mineral very wisely. As it is a non-renewable mineral, we should keep a larger portion of this national wealth for our next generation.

Environmental Phobia
Environmentalists who hate nuclear power are blind to the massive stockpiles of nuclear arsenals possessed by many nations. South Korea and Japan can assemble a nuclear weapon within six month. According to Dr Paul Rogers, “the South African Nuclear Weapons Programme dates back to the 1970s and it had the capability to assemble nuclear weapons rapidly if required.” (Paul Rogers, Guide to Nuclear Weapons, Burg Publishing Ltd, Oxford, London, and 1988. PP.91-94).

A network of nuclear scientists (in previous Russia and eastern countries) has turned the nuclear bomb into a marketable commodity. Thanks to the breakthroughs in the Nuclear Energy Management and Waste Disposal System disasters can be avoided. In the meantime, developed countries, the International Atomic Agency and top ranking universities such as MIT are engaged in extensive research to develop the safety measures for a Nuclear Power Supply System.

Powering Namibia
To reverse the poverty and establish a high-tech industrial economy, Namibia has placed its high hope in the Vision-2030 socioeconomic agenda. To start and run the Vision-engine we need an uninterrupted power supply. When the vision begins to bear its fruits, presumably the GDP will grow up to 7% by 2010. And the annual energy consumption will increase around 3% per annum. Our people, businesses and industries will demand more power. The present electricity demand is 450 MW (Megawatt) and it will become 500 MW by 2010 and 600 MW by 2015.

Nampower, the national powerhouse, supplies only 200 MW from the Ruacana hydropower plant, and Van Eck and Paratus thermal plants. The Kudu Gas plant, Kunene-Popa Falls hydropower station and the Western Corridor project are not yet started. The Zambia-Caprivi great power line is another option that Namibia has to count on. Moreover, to fill the current power need we are forced to buy electricity from South Africa’s Koeberg nuclear plant, which is very costly, and an unpredictable power source. In brief, Namibia is being forced to rely on unpredictable and unreliable power supply.

This situation demands Namibia to design a reliable, sustainable, affordable and environment-friendly energy policy. Starting from America, all developed and emerging economies have engaged in this task. Interestingly, these polices are centered on a Core Energy Source that is complemented by a Supplementary Energy Source. The foundation of their energy strategy is nuclear power but not other energy sources such as solar, wind or bio-fuel which can complement the national energy supply In brief, future global energy will be a Nuclear-Based Energy Mix (NBEM). Using its uranium resources, Namibia should consider this energy option to leapfrog to a knowledge-based economy.

Einstein on Nuclear Energy
Finally, I would like to remind the unrivalled insight of one of the foremost men of science of all time, Albert Einstein. In tabling the famous equation E = MCxC, he opened the Pandora’s box of nuclear energy. The” Conversion of Mass to Energy” is the underlying principle of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, both of which work by liberating energy through breaking atoms apart. Einstein once said,” It might be possible, and it is not even improbable that novel sources of energy of enormous effectiveness will be opened.” If matter could be transformed entirely to energy, a single paper clip would supply the same energy as the bomb that entirely destroyed two Japanese cities – Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hence, a developing nation should use this sustainable and green energy source for a peaceful purpose – to reserve the poverty and emerge as a highly developed industrial nation.


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