Monday, September 24, 2007

No to nuclear energy

No to nuclear energy

While plans are being made for building more nuclear reactors in South Africa, on the other side of the coin are groups such as Earthyear Africa which are actively campaigning against their development. 

Earthlife Africa has published a 36 page factsheet on nuclear energy in South Africa. Titled: What you need to know about South Africa's nuclear programme, the document is part of the Nuclear Energy Costs The Earth Campaign. In it they they provide an overview of nuclear energy, its efects on humans, plants and animals, climate change and tourism, seeking to gain support in declaring South Africa a nuclear free zone. They question who actually stands to gain financially from the PBMR given that the partners are international, even suggesting that South Africa is being used as a "guinea pig" for testing the PBMR. Below follows a short insert from the document providing some background to their arguments.

Eskom wishes to build more nuclear reactors, based on a full scale model that has been tried and abandoned in the North. These reactors are called Pebble Bed Modular Reactors (PBMRs). The first is planned for Koeberg, near Cape Town. The proposal is that the fuel for these PBMRs be produced at Pelindaba.

In addition there are fourteen thousand tons of radioactive weapons scrap metal at Pelindaba from decommissioned nuclear facilities. NECSA (Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa) wishes to smelt this waste and sell the metal on the open market, followed by commercialisation of the smelter process - this process is not international best practice, and could turn South Africa into the North's radioactive waste dumping ground.

The proposed reactors, radioactive fuel plant, and the proposed radioactive waste smelter, will emit many kilograms of radioactive emissions into the air, water and soil every year. Pelindaba is located within two kilometres of a World Heritage Site, The Cradle of Humankind, and ten kilometres from the townships of Atteridgeville and Diepsloot.

At full production, for all the planned reactors, there would be nine trucks carrying nuclear material, and 145 trucks carrying chemicals every day between Durban, Pelindaba and Koeberg for forty years!

There is no doubt that radiation is harmful. Furthermore, the level of what is considered a "safe" dose has been lowered consistently, and now stands at a few percent of what was originally considered a "safe dose".

One of the arguments for the PBMR is that South Africa will need massive amounts of new power. This will not be true for at least ten years. In this time, we will be able to install all of South Africa's power requirements using safe and clean Renewable Energy Technologies, which are available off the shelf, and can be installed within weeks.

Further, the planned ten nuclear reactors for South Africa in the near future will generate less than 2.5% of our current electricity generation capacity, but with hazardous consequences for hundreds of thousands of years.

Safe, clean, and sustainable alternatives exist, which are proving far more viable, from an economic and health, safety and environmental point of view.

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