Zimbabwe plans to explore the possibilities of harnessing nuclear energy by 2020 to curb the country’s perennial power problems.
The country is believed to possess vast untapped uranium deposits, which are critical for nuclear energy generation. Zesa chief executive officer Josh Chifamba said a team of experts would soon be assembled to look into the feasibility of such a venture in a move likely to attract international attention.
“We will set up a small group to look at the nuclear option,” said Chifamba. “We are looking at the year 2020 and onwards for full-scale nuclear power production,” Chifamba told an International Business Conference in Bulawayo on Wednesday.
Zimbabwe has unexploited uranium deposits in the Zambezi valley. It is also estimated that Kanyemba Mine in the Zambezi valley holds more than 45 000 tonnes of uranium ore with over 20 000 tonnes extractible.
Iran and China are reported to have expressed a keen interest in Zimbabwe’s uranium deposits. The UN imposed fresh sanctions on Iran last year after it refused to halt its uranium enrichment programme. Senior government officials have travelled to Iran for discussions on exploiting Zimbabwe’s uranium deposits.
Last year, Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi told an Iranian news agency that Zimbabwe was willing to work with Iran on extracting uranium resources meant for Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme.
“Zimbabwe holds rich resources, but the problem we face is lack of budget, finance and required technical equipment to take the very rich resources out and use them,” the news agency quoted Mumbengegwi as saying.
The state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and the China Uranium Corporation last year entered into a uranium mining deal, which was, however, thwarted by the fact that the ZMDC is on the United States and European Union sanctions list.
The project would have been implemented through Afri-Sino Resources Ltd, a company jointly established by China Uranium Corporation, New on Investment and ZMDC.
Uranium ore, or yellow cake, can be converted to a uranium gas which is then processed into nuclear fuel or enriched to make nuclear weapons.