By Staff Reporter
Information and communication technology minister, Tjekero Tweya, has announced that nuclear energy discussions with India are imminent. According to Tweya, Cabinet decided to proceed with the nuclear discussions last week, following a 2009 agreement on the supply of uranium to be used on nuclear energy, which has not yet been implemented. A high-powered Indian delegation led by President Pranab Mukherjee was in the country in June to seek uranium from Namibia for its peaceful nuclear energy use and to try and convince Namibia, the fourth largest world producer of the mineral, to implement a seven-year-old agreement enabling the supply.
So far, the implementation of the agreement has been stalled because India is not a signatory to the United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Tweya noted that the agreement stipulates that Namibia will only export uranium to India for non-weapon use.
President Hage Geingob assured Mukherjee that Namibia would look into legal ways through which Namibia can supply uranium to India.
According to Tweya: “The Cabinet asked the mines ministry to come up with suitable dates for convening a meeting with India’s technical team on how to operationalise the agreement.”
According to media reports, during Mukherjee’s visit it was agreed that India would deploy technical atomic energy experts to assist with any hurdles experienced with the uranium exports from Namibia.
“The move to have Indian atomic energy experts was necessitated by the fact that Namibia is a signatory to the African Union members that are against dealing with non- Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty signatories.” Tweya did not say whether these experts were sent to Namibia already.
The supply of uranium to India featured prominently during the talks between Mukherjee and Geingob in June. Namibia signed a cooperation agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy with India in 2009 when the then President Hifikepunye Pohamba visited that country.
The agreement has not taken off, as the Namibian Parliament is yet to ratify it. Besides, Namibia is bound by the Pelindaba Treaty signed by the African Union, which prevents supply of uranium to countries which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Asked whether it is wise for Namibia to enter into a uranium supply agreement with India, Dr Gabi Schneider, director of Namibia’s Uranium Association (NUA), said: “As you rightly mention above, Namibia is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Additional Protocol and the Pelindaba Treaty. Legally, Namibia is therefore at present not in a position to enter into any uranium supply agreement with India.”
There are, however, fears that should Namibia decide on a new nuclear deal with India it would spark reverberations around the world and raise concerns with those tracking nuclear proliferation NUA indicated earlier this year that Namibia is currently not in a position to supply uranium to India. Responding to questions from this publication via email, Schneider said cooperation in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy involves a lot more than just supply of uranium. “Scientific cooperation in fields such as nuclear medicine, agriculture, etc., could be of benefit to Namibia, and in this respect the agreement would be useful,” Schneider said at the time.