NUKES: Uranium deals circumventing Environmental Impact reports

THE Anti-Nuclear Caucus of the Alternative Media Forum has voiced its concern over pro-nuclear bias in the media. Citing concerns that issues have not been addressed adequately by editorials, op-ed and letters pages, the group has offered to assist editors, as well as “all readers of print media”, in addressing, pressing environmental concerns raised by the recent intergovernment uranium deals with France and Russia, intended to circumvent the Environmental Impact Assessment process. A public review is still in the process of being conducted and Earthlife Africa is calling for its members to submit comment and criticism with regard to the current PBMR “scoping report”.

Despite this, government continues to treat nuclear power as a foregone conclusion, while newsrooms have begun to tout the benefits of bilateral ties and economic relations with the countries concerned. Russia, however, has failed to clean up its nuclear mess which resulted from the Cold War. Its technology is considered “old and redundent” following the Chernobyl crisis. France is equally to blame for destroying the lives of Pacific Islanders in the Moruroa Atoll via atomic testing that has drawn criticism from New Zealand and Australia.

That the current nuclear debate appears to exist in some sort of a vacuum in the business sections of daily newspapers, in which little is done to tie information down to the reality of atomic power, is exceedingly troubling. The day-to-day issues of those confronted with the spectre of nuclear energy and its associated abuses remains, and increasingly the anti-nuclear lobbey is being ignored as big business and big government pushes a pro-nuclear agenda.

Has the press finally turned into lapdogs of the party-political line — lackeys of government spin? Is anybody awake at Newspaper Nouse? That the media continue to downplay this subject, ignoring the many issues raised by environmental activists, in the interest of “national unity and the rhetoric of development, is a major cause for concern.


HOT neWS Angles on a More Radioactive Debate

The folllowing headlines are based upon Earthlife Africa’s The SA government is pushing Nuclear Power. A ‘Pebble Bed Nuclear Reactor’ is being proposed next to Koeberg. (“Ten concerns about Nuclear Energy”). We provide some issues and angles of our own.

1. Health Impacts under-reported
There is no such thing as a “safe” dose of radiation. Routine emissions from Koeberg of radioactive isotopes, such as ceasium and strontium, continues to rate as one of the most under-reported news stories in South Africa to date. Radioactive emissions from the plant continue to exceed European and International health directives, while accumulating in the food chain, thereby compromising our food and health security. Contamination of Swartland wheat and dairy, for instance, continues to irk environmentalists whilst alarming health food experts.

2. Nuclear Energy is Pro-War
The “Peaceful Use” of nuclear energy is an oxymoron. In a news story that has yet to make headlines, South African produced uranium products via SXR Uranium One continue to be used in conflict areas, despite assurances to the contrary. The use of depleted uranium by the US military in Iraq is credited with chronic illness, death and even cancers in children. The story first reported as “Gulf-war syndrome” failed to make major headlines in South Africa, despite renewed concerns over the use of military force in Iraq. This must rate as one of the most censored news-stories of all time.
[Source: ‘US uranium bombs behind cancer in Iraq’ IOL, March 07/2000]

3. Nukes ride roughshod over the rights of First Nations

The Namaqua people of Namaqualand, have had nuclear waste dumped on them for over two decades. To date, South Africa’s nuclear industry continues to ignore the rights of first nations, such as the Namaqua, Griqua, and others. In addition, how many small fishing communities are being affected by an expanded nuclear energy policy along the West Coast? What of the rights of those pushed off their land by uranium mining in the Karoo and elsewhere? This is more than just a headline story and deserves serious attention from journalists. [Source: Namaqualand Action Group for Environmental Justice]

4. Nuclear Energy is simply “Bad Medicine”
As the Navajo Nation — the first indigenous authority in the world to ban the mining of uranium — has put it: “Radiation is bad medicine. Humans have no business taking uranium out of the ground in the first place.” News of a complete ban on uranium mining on “Indian Reservations” and consequently the end to various nuclear power programmes in the USA has failed to make news in South Africa, this despite our country’s legacy of homelands. Isn’t it time to start talking about “pro-nuclear bias” across media? [Source: Mineweb]

5. Lack of a coherent nuclear safety plan
The City of Cape Town’s lack of a coherent evacuation plan to deal with a nuclear emergency continues to annoy critics while the story is shoved aside by over-optimistic forecasts of “nuclear energy potential”. To put it bluntly, there is simply no workable plan to evacuate the citizens of Cape Town in the event of a Three-Mile Island or Chernobyl-style meltdown. Furthermore, expanding Koeberg’s capacity along the incremental lines of French and German technology, contradicts claims that the PBMR is a radical development in safety. [Source: Koeberg Alert]

5. Uranium mining still killing workers.

According to International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, uranium mining has been responsible for the largest collective exposure of workers to radiation. One estimate puts the number of workers who have died of lung cancer and silicosis due to mining and milling alone at 20 000. The ANC government continues to sign away our rights, making deals with Russia and France while paying lipservice to workers issues. Workers in the nuclear industry have simply been neglected while the alternative media counts bodies. [Source: Internatonal Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War]

6. Nuclear energy is no solution to climate change
The global nuclear industry continues to exploit concerns over global warming by misrepresenting nuclear power as a carbon-free electricity source and global climate saviour. However, the complete nuclear fuel chain is extremely energy intensive and dirty. Some myths perpetuated by the pro-nuclear lobbey include: “Atomic energy is safe and clean”. Nuclear power will provide all of us with an abundant source of low-cost energy”; and “All safety concerns have been addressed by new designs.”
[Source: ELA-CT]

7. No insurance on nuclear industry forecasts.
The nuclear industry is one of the few industries in the world in which it is impossible to get proper insurance. Reason: Insurance assessors are loath to estimate the cost of a class-one nuclear incident or disaster. Consequently laws are needed to indemnify the industry against liability claims. Who is reporting this story? Absolutely no-one, since property values around Koeberg take a beating everytime anything bad is said about nuclear energy. [Source:]

Earthlife Africa Cape Town is making a submission on the PBMR. If you would like to endorse their submission or are interested in some guidelines for making your own submission, please contact them directly at [email protected]

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