Activists fear nuke risks

28 September 2012 - 02:11 By GRAEME HOSKEN
A protestor, clad in traditional an aboriginal costume, holds a picture showing low-radiation nuclear wastes being stored on Orchid Island, a scenic spot southeast off Taiwan, during an anti-nuclear rally held in Taipei on March 11, 2012.
A protestor, clad in traditional an aboriginal costume, holds a picture showing low-radiation nuclear wastes being stored on Orchid Island, a scenic spot southeast off Taiwan, during an anti-nuclear rally held in Taipei on March 11, 2012.
Image: AFP PHOTO / Mandy CHENG

Fearing for the safety of millions of South Africans, Greenpeace has made an urgent request for detailed information on the management of the country's nuclear waste programmes and facilities.

The international environmental lobby group yesterday lodged formal requests for access to information with the National Nuclear Regulator, Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa, Eskom and the Department of Energy.

The Promotion of Access to Information Act application comes after a similar request, lodged by Greenpeace in June, was turned down. That decision is being appealed.

Greenpeace is looking for information on the disposal of nuclear waste and safety procedures followed; the proposed construction and location of new nuclear power plants; security plans at nuclear facilities, and the transportation of radioactive materials from gold mines to harbours for export.

Ferrial Adam, Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaigner, said: "Increasing secrecy around nuclear energy in South Africa and a lack of transparency has driven the requests."

Elliot Mulane, spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa, said the application would be "conducted" according to the access to information act.

"We are seeking information in relation to activities at Vaalputs, the nuclear waste plant in the Northern Cape, and Pelindaba, the nuclear research facility outside Pretoria.

"Information in our possession indicates that gold-mining companies are involved in transporting highly radioactive yellowcake," she said.

Yellowcake powder contains uranium oxide and can be used to produce enriched uranium.

Adam said Greenpeace believed the environmental impact study undertaken for the Department of Minerals and Energy's Nuclear 1 programme, regarding the proposed construction of new nuclear power stations, was "flawed".

Tammy O'Connor of the South African History Archive freedom of information programme said: "The government does not own information. It holds information on behalf of the public. It is obliged to share this information to allow citizens to participate in decision-making."

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