Govt’s Nuclear Plans Meet Objections

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By Wes Tsarina

WINDHOEK

An environmental organisation has asked the Government not to make nuclear energy generation an option.

It said Namibia has many other sustainable and climate friendly resources, which should be used to benefit its people, country and environment.

Earth life said last week it was shocked at the Government’s approval of plans to build a nuclear power plant because not only was nuclear energy unsafe, dangerous and very costly, but it was also not the answer to climate change.

It said the resource was also unsustainable, as new reserves would be exhausted within 60 to 70 years.

Earth life’s spokesperson Birchen Koshers said high level nuclear waste remained radioactive for a long time and the world had yet to find a solution for its safe disposal.

“Nuclear waste is a problem that does not go away because it remains dangerous for at least 200 000 years,” she said, adding that this would burden generations to come.

Recently, Cabinet approved the Ministry of Mines and Energy’s plans to develop a nuclear regulatory framework in a bid to pursue nuclear power and uranium beneficiation as a long-term solution to the shortage of electricity in Namibia.

Namibia needs additional generation capacity to meet its current demand of 450 MW daily. It produces around 384 MW from local plants with the shortfall covered by imports from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Before the country can build a nuclear power station or uranium processing plants, it needs a regulatory framework that spells out nuclear safety and other requirements such as licensing, building, commissioning and de-commissioning of all nuclear establishments and facilities. The framework will have to include the procedure for the transportation and sorting of irradiated waste.

Cabinet said electricity problems being experienced in southern Africa would persist for many years to come and new generation capacity installation appeared to have become the trend worldwide for countries to attain energy self-sufficiency.

Namibia has significant uranium reserves, which Cabinet said could earn the country more money if value was added to the resource before export.

Presently, uranium is exported as yellow cake which costs US$100/kg, compared with US$3 000/kg for beneficiated uranium.

Kohrs said while industry lobbyists and pro-nuclear politicians wanted people to believe that nuclear energy was climate friendly, “the whole fuel cycle of nuclear power from uranium mining to the decommissioning of the power station releases three to four times more carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced than renewable energy”.

She said no carbon credits were given for nuclear power generation.
Kohrs said nuclear energy costs between two and four times more than electricity produced from fossil fuels, while the cost of decommissioning nuclear power plants and social and environmental costs associated with it were never included.

“The high technological capacity for nuclear generation is completely absent in the country and would have to be developed in Namibia or imported at very high costs,” she added.

Namibia’s contribution to global uranium production is eight percent, and will increase to 15 percent with the opening of new mines. The country comes second in Africa as the largest producer of uranium. Niger is the largest producer, while South Africa comes third after Namibia.

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