Namibia: Uranium rich; but, energy poor

Dr Kuiri Tjipangandjara
The World has a 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 tons of U3O8), and being ranked in 2 and 3 positions 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 industrialization.
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 a 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 utilization of earth sources; new policy directives on increased national participation and ownership; prioritized investments in nuclear energy; setting-up of post-mining site rehabilitation fund; maximization 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 wash one’s face with saliva. 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 of this Nuclear Project will be the successful developers of the 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 (South Kunene Region and North Kunene Region).
•Availability of water and energy will promote mineral exploration and development, agricultural and tourism activities in the two Kunene Regions.
•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 Harbors.
•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 Harbor Town - close to the northern fishing grounds.
•Availability of power and water at Cape Frio can expand human settlements and agricultural activities (crop production and livestock) in parts of two Kunene Regions that were considered hitherto inhospitable.
•Availability of water and electricity at Cape Frio will be the anchor for the accelerated development of this northern Harbor Town.
•Increased retention of funds in the country that have been used for the 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 realize Energy Security, and subsequently Water Security and Food Security will promote industrialization and sustainable employment creation.
The language to be spoken in Namibia must be the future is nuclear energy!

*Dr Kuiri F Tjipangandjara is a graduate of basic sciences, applied sciences and engineering. He holds a Doctorate Science Engineering Degree, with specialization in mineral engineering and chemical metallurgy; from Columbia University, NYC, NY, USA. His working experiences are in the mineral-mining, academic and water sectors.