Environmental groups oppose trans-shipment of uranium through SA
Environmental groups have expressed concerns about the trans-shipment of uranium between Namibia and the US through South African ports.
Last week‚ the Department of Energy gazetted an application made by US firm Edlow International Company Incorporated for a trans-shipment and brief in-transit storage of low activity uranium ore concentrate from Namibia to clients abroad. This will be done through the port of Durban or Cape Town using a duly authorised transport vessel‚ the department said in the gazette.
“The transport vessel is not nuclear powered. Consignments are scheduled to enter and depart the port of Durban or Cape Town from time to time‚” the department said. But Greenpeace Africa is opposed to the move.
"Greenpeace is strongly opposed to the granting of a licence for the trans-shipment and in-transit storage of 'low activity uranium ore concentrate' from Namibia. It is unclear how this concentrate would reach either Cape Town or Durban‚ and there is no information about the volume of ore that would need to be transported and stored in the application.
"This is an absolutely unnecessary risk‚ and Greenpeace strongly believes that the application should be denied. The reality is that nuclear is never safe‚ and the National Nuclear Regulator should not allow South Africa to be used as a thoroughfare for the transport of uranium ore‚” said Melita Steele‚ senior climate and energy campaign manager at Greenpeace Africa.
Earthlife Africa Cape Town also opposed the move. The organisation raised the same questions on the application as Greenpeace. It further questioned what safety measures were in place when the uranium is being transported and who will bear such cost.
“These are but some answers that are needed… who will ensure that communities that are near the transport routes will not be exposed to dust? One could go on – the bottom line is that this is an unnecessary risk to us all. This must be resisted. Surely‚ if the material originates in Namibia‚ then the ship can pick up in Namibia‚” said Muna Lakhani of Earthlife Africa Cape Town.
Section 21(2) of the National Nuclear Regulator dictates that any person wishing to anchor or sojourn in the South African waters or enter any port with a vessel which has any radioactive material capable of causing nuclear damage on board must apply to the chief executive officer of the regulator.
The chief executive must serve the copy of the application to the affected municipality and also publish a copy of the application in the gazette and two newspapers of every such municipality‚ at least 30 days in advance.