A PRIVATE American intelligence organisation, Stratfor, globally known as the “shadow Central Intelligence Agency”, has said Zimbabwe will not soon generate nuclear energy from uranium due to
lack of capital and technology.
In an analysis of President Robert Mugabe’s remarks that Zimbabwe has uranium to develop nuclear power, Stratfor said while the deposits might exist, it would be difficult to exploit them.
“The prerequisites for nuclear energy indicate that Zimbabwe will not possess nuclear power – or weapons – any time soon. A small nuclear reactor could produce more than enough energy for Zimbabwe’s energy needs, but near-term nuclear power production in Zimbabwe is not possible,” it said.
“Nuclear energy production requires several key components: the first is a supply of nuclear material such as uranium. This may prove to be the easiest requirement to meet, since Zimbabwe has plenty of unemployed labourers available to extract the materials.”
Stratfor said Zimbabwe needs just over 2 100 megawatts of power but currently has a shortfall of between 400 and 500 megawatts.
Economic analyst John Robertson was quoted in the press as saying the process of developing nuclear power was laborious.
“It is a huge step from locating some uranium deposits to developing a working uranium mine and refinery, and it is an even bigger leap to establish a nuclear reactor,” Robertson said. “Where would Mugabe source the substantial finance and technical expertise needed to build a nuclear reactor?”
Zimbabwe’s neighbour Namibia has a uranium mine near the port of Walvis Bay. South Africa has southern Africa’s only nuclear power station at Koeberg and is developing a new “pebble-bed” design reactor.
“The extraction may not prove economical, depending upon the amount of uranium in the mines,” Stratfor said.
“The second requirement is nuclear reactor technology. While Harare maintains good relations with several countries possessing a nuclear capability, the transfer of that technology would prove very difficult.”
It said Western countries would strongly oppose any transfer of nuclear technology to Zimbabwe given rumours of Harare’s ambitions to become a nuclear power.
Stratfor claimed Mugabe sent troops to the DRC to get uranium from Shinkolobwe mine and has been in talks with Argentina to secure a nuclear reactor for power production.
“Even if Harare were able to acquire the necessary technological expertise, it would still need the capital to actualise its plan,” Stratfor said.
“Zimbabwe – already in a financial mess of gigantic proportions – has proved itself a less-than-worthy borrower, and thus likely would not be able to obtain the funds needed for the construction of nuclear facilities.”
Stratfor said the process of nuclear power generation was demanding.
“The production of energy also requires initial energy inputs, with nuclear energy in particular involving a power-intensive process for the conversion and enrichment of raw uranium into a form usable in a power reactor,” it said.
“For a country already experiencing power shortages, a new nuclear reactor hardly seems feasible.”