GOVERNMENT has decided to build a nuclear power plant in Namibia within the next 15 to 20 years, Mines and Energy Minister Erkki Nghimtina has confirmed.
Nghimtina on Tuesday told Engineering News Online on the sidelines of the International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy in Paris that although no firm date has yet been set for the commissioning of the nuclear power station, it is likely to happen in the second half of the next decade - perhaps 2025 or 2027.
"Although an earlier date is not impossible," the website quoted the Minister.
"We're saying it will be built in the future. It will be a long process. But we have to start preparing now. Our policy is, that by 2030, Namibia will be an industrial country, and to be an industrial country you need energy," Nghimtina was quoted.
The latest statements indicate that Government's nuclear plans have been slightly postponed.
According to the World Nuclear Association, "[the Namibian] Government has committed to a policy position of supplying its own electricity from nuclear power by about 2018".
It is the second time in less than four months that Ministry top brass have publicly stated the country's nuclear energy hopes.
In December, the US website, The Electricity Forum, singled Namibia out as one of seven African countries considering nuclear programmes as a solution to rising power demand and high fuel costs.
"We are determined to build a nuclear plant both for Namibia and to trade power via the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP)," the website quoted Mines and Energy Deputy Minister Bernard Esau, who said the country had general talks with Areva but would launch a tender process to select a company to build the plant.
Last year, President Hifikepunye Pohamba also signed an agreement with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to "build nuclear power plants" and "train personnel".
Although detail was sketchy about the agreement on cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy signed between Pohamba and Singh, international media reports linked Namibia's willingness to sell uranium to India to the construction of nuclear plants locally.
Under the agreement, "the two sides will trade uranium and exchange expertise in designing of atomic plants and training personnel," Asian News International (ANI) said yesterday.
At the time, the financial website Bloomberg quoted the Press Trust of India, saying "India and Namibia signed a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement to trade uranium and build nuclear power plants".
According to the International Business Times, the "Indo-Namibian agreement in peaceful uses of nuclear energy allows for supply of uranium and setting up of nuclear reactors".
Government is on record for toying with the idea of nuclear energy since 2007.
Cabinet decided last June that the Ministry of Mines and Energy should develop a nuclear regulatory framework, while pursuing a "nuclear power and uranium beneficiation strategy".
At the time, Cabinet motivated its decision saying it will provide for a long-term solution to the shortfall in electricity generation capacity, and that it will result in the local processing of the country's vast uranium resources.
"Namibia has significant uranium reserves and the country can gain more of these reserves could have value added locally - being uranium enrichment - prior to export," Cabinet said then.
The nuclear regulatory framework will have to deal with issues regarding licensing, building, commissioning, operation and decommissioning of all nuclear establishments and facilities.
The proposed new law, to be developed in conjunction with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), also need to look at procedures for the transport and storage of economic waste.
Central to Government's nuclear plans is Namibia's uranium riches.
Addressing the International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy on Tuesday, Nghimtina said that the country produces large quantities of uranium, but struggles to meet its electricity needs.
"Namibia has decided to diversify its energy mix," the Minister said.
Nghimtina also praised French President Nicolas Sarkozy's announcements that he was going to press international financial institutions to provide financing for nuclear power projects and that France was going to set up an International Nuclear School.