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April 05, 2007

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GreenmanTim

Thank you, Ben. I count on your keen, on-the-ground analysis of this and other remotely glimpsed issues affecting Namibia. Since Americans, by and large, know very little about your country besides the fact that Brad and Angelina think its a swell spot to have children, our perspectives could use some broadening.

Best to the family, Tim

Ben Fuller

I think there will be a lot more "watching" on this one than anything else. Right now Namibia is desperate for energy so we can maintain economic development. We face the reality of power shortages over the next few years. Namibia and Southern Africa are developing too fast in a post apartheid world for the energy sector to keep up. The government will "look favorably" on many proposals put to it, but that does not mean they will come to fruition. (Remember, the proposal was part of a number of ideas for development and joint cooperation presented to the government by a high powered delegation from Russia. I doubt if anyone wanted to rock the boat by dismissing some of them out of hand.) Here are a few things to think about while we "watch."

This nuke is a proposed idea, not a fait accompli. The prototype is not yet built and planned for 2010. For such a complex structure 3-5 years can be added to the deadline. Once that happens there are all sorts of logistical, environmental, regulatory and other issues to solve to get it down here and working. Add a few more years. Then there is the tricky matter of profit because there are other options under development that may provide power at a much lower cost.

Other options on the table for additional power are varied and more realistic. The Kudu Gas Field in the South is well on its way to production. A Japanese firm just put in $ 44 million. If all goes well it could be generating power (with proven natural gas technology) by 2012. Namibia just put money into rehabilitating a power plant in Zimbabwe. The national power grid will be extended to Katmia Mulilo to facilitate the country's use of power from Zim. Yes, the investment carries the attendant risks of Zimbabwe's current situation, but, as I said, Namibia is desperate for power. If this investment pays off it will be worth the risk. Recently, a Dutch investor formed a joint partnership for three wind power facilities along Namibia's coast. The EU has signed off on development of a power plant that will burn encroaching bush species from our commercial farms. Then, of course, is the Kunene hydro power project. This project has been well planned and engineered over the years, so they would only need updates to get going if that was decided. Also, there is a government in Angola with both the need for power to develop a shattered economy, and the capacity to play a role in building the dam. The Baines site, however, and not Epupa looks the more likely option if there is a decision to build. Lastly, now that peace has come to Angola, the rehabilitation of dams along the Kunene can begin. If completed, they will improve the efficiency and reliability of the Ruacana Falls hydro power plant. All of these options are more solid than an unproven technology that has yet to be built.

By the way, the nuke-in-a-boat idea is not the first "extreme" notion for power generation we've had presented to us. There are some who are convinced that a massive glass tower in the Namib Desert that will generate power and water through convection is the solution to our needs. Certainly, there are more notions and ideas out there in the wild. In the meantime, I would not bet my pension on the floating Nuke. I'll put my money where it's safe and watch it grow.

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