Namibia wants to use its rich uranium resources to develop a nuclear power plant that would fuel economic development in the world's fourth-largest uranium producer, officials said Monday.
"It is the expressed decision of the Namibian government to seriously consider the development of nuclear power in order to complete the national energy mix and provide sufficient energy for our development," said Mining Minister Isak Katali.
"The uranium and nuclear energy policy to be developed will cover the entire nuclear fuel cycle," Katali told the country's first-ever stakeholder meeting on plans for a new policy on uranium mining and nuclear energy, convened with the help of Finland's nuclear authority.
The policy document and draft legislation are expected to be finished by the middle of next year, said Mining Commissioner Erasmus Shivolo.
"Nuclear waste will have to be stored in Namibia," Shivolo told participants at the meeting.
Finding a "convenient storage sight" would be part of the policy development process, he said.
Namibia has previously floated the idea of building a nuclear plant by 2018, but analysts say it would be difficult for the southern African country to finish a reactor by then given the long lead-time to build a plant and the massive investment required.
The government first tabled plans for a nuclear power plant in 2007.
Shivolo presented a rough outline of the new nuclear policy that included sections on setting up a nuclear waste management fund, increasing black Namibians' participation in the uranium sector and limiting the use of the country's uranium to peaceful purposes.
Namibia produced 4,626 tonnes of uranium in 2009, making it the world's fourth-largest producer, according to the World Nuclear Association.
The government put a moratorium on issuing uranium exploration licences in 2007 because it did not have a nuclear policy in place.
Four uranium companies currently hold uranium mining licences, two mines are operational and two new mines are under construction, including one being developed by French energy giant Areva that plans to start production next year.
Namibia's uranium deposits have drawn growing interest from France, Russia and other countries amid reviving global enthusiasm for nuclear power.
But Namibia has no nuclear power of its own and relies on imports from neighbouring South Africa for about half its electricity.© ANP/AFP