London, November 9 (ANI): Reports indicate that the hidden cost of Britain's new generation of nuclear power could be the destruction of the Kalahari desert in Namibia and millions of tonnes of extra greenhouse gas emissions a year.
According to a report in the Observer, the desert, with its towering sand dunes and spectacular lunar-like landscapes, is at the centre of an international uranium rush led by Rossing Uranium, a subsidiary of the British mining giant Rio Tinto, and the French state-owned company, Areva, which part-manages the nuclear complex at Sellafield and wants to build others in Britain.
Ed Miliband, the energy secretary, is soon expected to release a batch of plans covering every aspect of Britain's strategy to replace its ageing nuclear power stations.
The documents are expected to set out the government's case on the need for nuclear power, based on the demand for secure, low-carbon energy supplies, the suitable sites and designs for new reactors, and how the decommissioning and safe storage of radioactive waste can be guaranteed.
It is not expected to consider the source of the fuel needed for the new reactors.
But, Rossing is expanding its existing giant mine - which already provides nearly 8 percent of the world's uranium - into the Namib-Naukluft national park.
Areva has leased hundreds of square kilometres of the desert near Trekkopje, where it plans to build one of the world's largest uranium mines.
At least 20 other mining companies from the UK, Canada, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere have also been given licenses to explore thousands of square kilometres of the national park and its surrounds, and six new mines, several of which would be in the park, are at the development stage.
The mines are all expected to be in open pits up to 200 metres below the desert sands.
With their waste heaps, acid plants and giant slurry ponds, they will extend over hundreds of square kilometres.
"Large areas of the desert will be inevitably devastated," said Bertchen Kohrs, director of the Namibian environment group Earthlife.
"They will do immense damage. We fear that there will be major contamination of the ground water supplies," Kohrs added.
Documents seen by the Observer suggest the mines would initially consume about 53 million cubic metres of water a year, more than 75 percent of the water presently supplied by the Namibian state water company.
The water will need to be pumped more than 56km to the mines from the coast.
The proposed expansion of the uranium mining would create mountains of waste radioactive sand. (ANI)