Economic Pulse – October 2022
Nuclear power has long been controversial, with proponents citing its potential to decarbonise the world and opponents raising concerns about safety and waste. However, as the need to address climate change grows more urgent, nuclear energy is gaining new support as a clean source of green energy. Nuclear plants do not produce greenhouse gasses, and they can run continuously for years without emitting pollutants. Uranium, the fuel for most nuclear plants, is abundant and relatively cheap. Nuclear power also has a high capacity factor, meaning that it produces a large amount of power relative to the amount of fuel it consumes. All of these factors make nuclear energy an attractive option for decarbonising the world.
However, political opposition remains a major obstacle to the expansion of nuclear power. In many countries, public sentiment remains strongly set against nuclear energy, making it difficult to build new plants or expand existing ones. As the fight against climate change intensifies, policymakers and world leaders will need to find ways to overcome this opposition and increase investment in nuclear energy. One person advocating for nuclear power is Bill Gates.
Bill Gates is no stranger to big projects. As the co-founder of Microsoft he helped to revolutionise the world of computing. More recently he has turned his attention to the fight against climate change, investing billions of dollars in clean energy technology. In this context Gates is now turning his sights on nuclear power. He is specifically backing small modular reactors (SMRs), which are more efficient and safer than traditional nuclear plants. SMRs are also less expensive to build and can be deployed quickly, making them an attractive option for developing countries looking to participate in more sustainable energy generation practices. Ultimately, Gates is betting that small modular reactors will play a big role in the future of nuclear power, and that nuclear power is the road to Net Zero by 2050.
The uranium industry in Namibia has a key role to play in the decarbonisation of the global economy and the production of clean energy. With its vast reserves of uranium, Namibia is one of the world’s leading producers of this metal, with an output of over 6,700 tons in 2021. This made Namibia the second largest uranium producer last year.
Namibia has a long history of uranium mining. Rössing, the country’s first uranium mine, began operating in 1976. Rössing and Hussar are currently the two major mines in operation. A third one, Langer Heinrich, is set to resume operations in early 2024. Uranium plays a significant role in the Namibian economy. Local reserves of this natural resources are estimated at over 200 million tonnes. With prices for uranium currently improving there is much interest in further exploration and mining in Namibia.
This has economic significance for Namibia. Uranium mining can provide an important stream of state revenue, in addition to playing a role in the global transition to clean energy. Uranium is a valuable commodity, and royalties and taxes from uranium mining provide revenue for government programs and services. Apart from that, uranium mining creates procurement opportunities, and thus income, for local businesses. Not to mention the jobs and economic opportunities for communities which are a result of uranium mining. Rössing, for instance, has created sustainable employment for over 45 years, and the Husab mine is the largest employer in the Namibian mining sector today. In short, uranium mining in Namibia has a positive impact on state revenue, the local economy, employment as well as the future of our planet.
Despite concerns about safety and waste disposal, nuclear energy is a necessity in today’s world. And with responsible mining and production, uranium will continue to play an important role in meeting global clean energy needs. Namibia’s uranium industry is vital for decarbonisation and the global transition toward clean energy production. Namibian mining regulations and policies will be leading the way in maintaining and upholding robust standards that will allow the global community to back Gates and others advocating nuclear energy as a means to achieve global clean energy and “net zero” goals.
Global decarbonisation undoubtedly has to include nuclear energy. And thus, so does the Namibian uranium industry. In fact, through responsible uranium mining and production, Namibia’s part in global progress towards more sustainable clean energy production and decarbonisation will be disproportionately large. This is a story worth repeating.
Article by Eric van Zyl, Managing Director Designate at IJG, an established Namibian financial services market leader. IJG believes in tailoring their services to a client’s personal and business needs. For more information, visit www.ijg.net.