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Nuclear liability ‘woefully low’: Greenpeace

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Energy Minister, Tina Joemat-Petterson is set to face court action at the hands of environmental awareness group, Greenpeace, who on Monday filed a case at the Pretoria High Court in a bid to halt the country’s proposed nuclear expansion project. The NGO wants the minister to adhere to sections 29 (1) and (2) of the National Nuclear Regulator Act, which states that she is required to review and update at least every five years, the amount of nuclear liability operators of nuclear licenses must have.

This seeks to ensure that should a situation arise relating to a company’s nuclear power facilities, said company will have enough funds to resolve the issue. Greenpeace have stressed that the level of nuclear liability within South African at present is “woefully low”.

“It is about R2.4 billion. If we see what has happened in Fukushima (Japan), the cost of cleaning up is over R400bn, and rising. If something like that happens in South Africa, as we are planning to bring in new nuclear power plants, there is no adequate financial safeguard to resolve such issues,” explained Greenpeace Africa executive director, Micheal O’Brien Onyeka.

He further noted that should such a situation arise under the current state of nuclear liability, South African taxpayers would likely have to carry most of the costs.

Although the minister is compelled under the Nuclear Regulator Act to address the country’s nuclear liability regulations on a five year basis, Onyeka suggested the last such update took place nearly 10 years ago.

Greenpeace has been extremely critical over the proposed introduction of nuclear power within South Africa’s current energy system. Apart from overwhelming costs and a potential negative impact on the environment, they have also sought to stress that the nuclear facilities will do little to address the current energy woes, as the project would take at least 15 years to be fully up and running. The NGO are seeking investments into more renewable energy sources.

“Nuclear is bad in terms of financial costs, environmental costs, and in terms of timeline. It is too little too late at the terrible height of (the current energy crisis),” he said.

He added that it ‘boggled’ the organizations mind that government were reluctant to fully embrace renewable energy, as a more immediate resolve to the current electricity shortage.

“Renewable energy has shown consistently that it is the future, and the now. It has shown that it will deliver on time, unlike the fossil fuel industry which is never on time, and always over budget,” he stated.

Onyeka urged those within the community seeking to join the Greenpeace cause, to visit the organizations website VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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