WINDHOEK (Mineweb.net) –The Namibian government is planning to exploit its rich uranium deposits to commercially generate electricity to achieve self-sustenance in power generation, as shortages loom in 2017, although how it is going to achieve this without any current nuclear power plant plans seems obscure.
Namibia is now southern African region’s largest producer of uranium and feels the current arrangements under which the country relies on neighbouring South Africa for its electricity needs is not sustainable.
South Africa has indicated that in 2017 it would not be able to meet the region’s requirement due to growing demand in the country.
Joseph Iita, permanent secretary in the ministry of mines and energy was quoted over the weekend as saying : “Given the current scenarios and the unabated power crisis, Namibia is seriously considering using the available nuclear fuel (uranium) to generate enough electricity to meet its industrial development goals as stipulated in the national development plan or Vision 2030.
“Given the general power shortage in the region, the surplus power can always be exported to other SADC countries through firm power purchase agreements,”
That was the first time the government had made public plans to convert uranium into electricity.
Namibia imports 45 percent of its energy requirements from South Africa. Electricity demand peaks at 500 MW, but Namibia can only supply 393 MW if it runs its four power stations at full capacity with South Africa making up for the shortfall.
Iita said that the country is privileged to have substantial deposits of uranium whose current exploitation makes the country the 6th largest world producer, adding that the country would soon replace Kazakhstan as the third place uranium producer.
Namibia has eight known deposits of uranium in its vast deserts. So far only two mining companies, Rössing Uranium and Langer Heinrich Uranium are exploiting the resource. Two other mining firms, Trekkopje and Valencia say they are planning to come on stream in the next two years bringing the total investment in uranium mining to about N$1.52 billion.
He added that using part of uranium oxide for local electricity generation would go a long way in addressing the power shortage and hence sustainability contributes to the national development goals.
Iita however could not disclose whether there were any companies interested in the uranium enrichment project, and the timeframe over which the project would be unveiled. He said the country would be seeking to be provided with expertise from countries with experience in uranium enrichment for electricity generation.
Iita said that the government anticipated closer collaboration with the Nuclear Power division of the department of Nuclear Energy within the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“Recognising that expanding the benefits of the peaceful use of nuclear science and technology is a fundamental mandate for the IAEA, Namibia seeks to be provided with the core engineering, technological and management support in the field of nuclear power, with specific emphasis on electricity generation,” Iita said.
“Namibia’s expectations are to benefit from information and expertise on internationally accepted proven engineering management practices in all relevant areas such as technical and human performance, change management, implementation of management systems and a total quality management to nuclear power plant operations,” Iita said.
“Namibia proposes to seek assistance for total support to conduct a feasibility study on exploitation of uranium for nuclear power generation with the parallel objective of building local capacity through training and technology transfer.
“The proposed feasibility study is expected to adequately cover the technical, financial, safety and environmental specifications applicable to a project of this nature. It is recommended that initially a pre-feasibility study be conducted, followed by a full feasibility study subject to the outcome of the pre-feasibility study,” Iita said.
He said the country would be seeking to be provided with expertise from countries with experience in uranium enrichment for electricity generation.