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12.01.2007 Africa

Namibia opts for nuclear power

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The Namibian

Government has taken a decision to utilise nuclear power in order to avoid a looming power supply crunch in southern Africa and will use its own uranium resources.

"Government made a policy decision to that effect,” the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Joseph Iita, told The Namibian Wednesday.

“This decision was reinforced last year.”

Iita would not disclose when exactly Cabinet had taken the decision but said he had been instructed by his Ministry to look into the option of nuclear power generation.

Iita was approached for comment after the panapress agency reported Wednesday that Namibia was seeking regional and international help to build a nuclear power generation plant.

Namibia imports about 50 per cent of its electricity needs, mainly from South Africa.

Energy experts predict shortages of electricity supply in the region as South Africa's surplus is diminishing because of increasing local demand within its borders and also because of a lack of investment in new power plants in neighbouring countries over the past two decades.

“Nuclear energy is one of the options we are considering, it is not the option, but one of many options.

We are also looking into renewables like wind and solar power, gas like the Kudu gas field or hydropower from the Baynes Mountains on the Kunene River,” Iita added.

“It will not be in the immediate future, but rather a long-term project, because we will have to co-operate with several countries, especially those which have experience with that technology, since our people need to be trained in this field.”

Another issue to be considered is the management and storage of nuclear waste coming from such a power plant.

“We look at all aspects,” the Permanent Secretary said.

He told The Namibian that electricity could also be generated from the power of ocean waves along the Namibian coast.

“This technology will be even cheaper than a coal-fired power plant and we are looking into that as well.”

However, Namibia"s energy needs might be partially met within 24 months through wind power.

A Dutch investor intends to inject nearly one billion Namibia dollars into the country's economy with the establishment of a large wind park which will generate 92 megawatt of electricity, roughly 25 per cent of the country's energy needs of approximately 400 MW.

The company Aeolus Associated and its proprietor, Leo van Gastel, have applied for an electricity generation licence at the Electricity Control Board.

The proposed investment of 99 million euros (about N$1 billion) provides for 102 wind turbines of 900 and 600 kilowatt (KW) capacity.

The majority of them, 70 turbines, are to be erected at Grosse Bucht outside Luederitz, while 16 turbines each are intended for Oranjemund and Walvis Bay.

About 84 million euros of the funding will be secured through export subsidies of the Dutch Government and subsidies for renewable energies from EU and UN agencies.

The intention is to sell the electricity generated to NamPower to be fed into the national power grid.

The cost of generation is estimated to be N$0.24 per kilowatt hour (KWh) and Aeolus wants to sell electricity to NamPower at N$0.35 per KWh.

In its license application, which was advertised last week, investor Van Gastel maintains that a net profit of about N$5 million a year can be made from the envisaged wind park.

Official measurements show that Namibia's coastal areas have a wind speed of 6.5 to 7.5 metres per second, which is a prerequisite to move the large propellers of the turbines to generate electricity.

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