Educate public on nuclear energy
The public is not properly informed about the dangers of nuclear energy, therefore a proper information campaign should be conducted across the country and thereafter a national referendum should be held on the issue, says Berthen Kohrs, chairperson of Earthlife Namibia.
Kohrs says the nuclear industry with all its impacts should also be part of the school syllabus.
More than 2600 people have voted against the establishment of a nuclear power station in the country in an Internet poll, ‘Must Namibia get an own nuclear plant’ on the Uranium Institute’s website.
On Thursday this week, 2591 people who constitute 87.4%, voted against a nuclear power plant while 369 (12%) voted for it.
“I don’t think that the general public is properly informed about the dangers of nuclear power and the entire nuclear cycle, which starts right here in Namibia with uranium mining. Earthlife is of the opinion that a proper information campaign should be performed reaching all people and thereafter a national referendum should be held on the issue: nuclear power for Namibia or not,” Kohrs told the Economist this week.
The Ministry of Mines and Energy held workshops in Windhoek and Swakopmund last month to discuss the draft national nuclear fuel cycle policy and the importance that the uranium industry plays in the country’s economy.
Following a decision made by Cabinet in 2003 to investigate the option of nuclear energy in Namibia, government has embarked upon developing a Nuclear Fuel Cycle Policy to ensure the safe and sustainable exploration of nuclear fuel minerals.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services, Office of the Attorney-General, Finnish Geological Survey and Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) and the Ministry of Mines and Energy drafted the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Policy.
“The decision by Government in 2007, to pursue a nuclear power programme provided the need for policy directive concerning the nuclear fuel cycle. While the current participation in the nuclear fuel cycle is limited to uranium production, it is also generally accepted that exploring the rest of the nuclear fuel cycle maybe of significant benefit to Namibia,” the draft policy reads.
The benefits that can be derived from such a plant include energy security, nuclear technology and skills competency, industrial development as well as increased revenue generation through value addition and job creation.
However, conservationists are concerned that such a development would have a negative impact on the environment.
Kohrs reiterated her sentiments that Namibia should instead explore renewable energy sources.
“We believe that there is a lack of political will to use these resources. It is always said: too expensive. True, the construction of solar and wind power plants are still quite expensive, however, the fuel is for free whereas uranium and coal is a very expensive, damaging and finite resource. Namibia could be a leading country on the African continent by producing renewable energy instead of opting for a nuclear and a coal-fired plant,” she says.
According to Kohrs, Earthlife approached government, in particular the Ministry of Mines and Energy, on different occasions regarding the development of a nuclear plant and the dangers thereof.
“… we submitted a paper outlining important issues which should be taken into consideration when developing legislative regulations and policies on the nuclear industry. The only response we received was one sentence acknowledging receipt of the paper. We cannot say that we are in active dialogue with government, because it is one sided. However, Earthlife was invited to be part of the committee for Strategic Environmental Management Plan, which is an implementing body for the recommendations done by SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessment), where we have a chance to make our word heard,” Kohrs concludes.
The Erongo region has high potential for further discoveries of uranium deposits. Namibia has witnessed increased exploration expenditure in recent years, indicating that known uranium resources are expected to grow and have potential for significant contribution to the GDP.