Nuclear News

“Nuclear waste ‘dangerous for millennia, even millions of years, cannot be shut off”.

Written by  Monday, 23 November 2015 10:16
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Sheree Bega, a multi award winning journalist, of Saturday Star, South Africa’s leading weekend paper, wrote an excellent article titled “Nuclear waste ‘dangerous for millennia, even millions of years, cannot be shut off”.  The article was published yesterday in the Saturday Star.

 

“One small pellet of uranium fuel provides as much energy as a ton of coal – without generating greenhouse gases.  But it’s so dangerous it can never, ever be thrown away.

“The main disadvantage if nuclear energy … is you have to keep an eye on it (the pellet) for the next 10 million years”, explained Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, this week.

Processes such as nuclear fission created hundreds of new materials that were “intensely radioactive”, he said.

“We do not know how to destroy or neutralise these wastes.  Nuclear wastes are dangerous for millennia, even millions of years.”

Edwards was a speaker at the International Nuclearisation of Africa Symposium held in Joburg, and organised by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear war (IPPNW) – a Nobel Peace Prize laureate – the African Uranium Alliance and the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE).

The symposium, said organisers, focused on the impact of uranium mining on health and the environment and renewable energies.

Disposing of nuclear waste equated to “abandonment” and this approach was not “scientifically certain”, said Edwards.

“Radioactivity cannot be shut off.  Science has no way to slow down, speed up or stop the rate of radioactive emissions.  That’s why radioactive waste is a great unsolved problem.”

Humans, he believed, had never safely disposed of anything.  “That’s why we have a nuclear waste problem.”

Professor Andreas Nidecker, a member of the IPPNW board, said its focus was on the abolishment of nuclear weapons, but it was also interested in the entire nuclear chain.

“In this regard, uranium as the resource for both nuclear energy and nuclear bombs has been our concern for years.  Uranium-containing ores are a by-product of gold mining.”

Edwards said radioactive materials entered air, water and soil, and had distinct pathways in the human body.  “They get into fish , water and plants, animals and humans.  A small fraction of the population will develop cancer, years later.  Infants and children are especially vulnerable.”

There were “hundreds” of radioactive poisons with distinct biological pathways.

“At low levels, radioactive does not attack humans directly – it damages cells.  A population is like an ocean of cells.  A fraction of those cells will develop into cancer.

“But there is a latency period – the onset of disease may happen years or decades after exposure.”

Chronic radioactive exposures at low does increased the incidence of cancer, leukaemia, genetic damage, strokes, heart attacks and other blood diseases, as well as low intelligence in young children, Edwards pointed out.

Citing gold mining on the Witwatersrand and uranium mining he said 85 percent of the radioactivity in the ore was left behind in the tailings.

“Uranium wastes (mill tailings) stay hazardous for 500 000 years. Contamination spreads by wind, rain, erosion, animals and excavations.”

Mariette Liefferink, of the FSE, said the world has become “sober to the unimaginable power of uranium after Hiroshima and Nagasaki (in world War II), the nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and, more recently, Fukushima.

“In view of the globally expanding use of renewables, South Africa has the chance to become the African leader for a sustainable energy future and this at a fraction of the cost and fewer risks compared with a nuclear power system.”

Mycle Schneider, an independent nuclear expert, told delegates that nuclear’s position in the power market was “increasingly threatened by a shrinking client base, increasing production costs, stagnating electricity consumption and ferocious competitors, especially from the renewable energy sector.”

MINING

Ransacked Gold Mine Venture Reboots

South African mining veteran Peter Skeat is pressing ahead with plans to squeeze more gold out of an 80-year-old ransacked gold mine west of Johannesburg after settling a dispute with three former partners.

Coal Mines leave a legacy of ruin

Oxpeckers publishes never-before-seen data exposing the lack of mine closures, d...

Tours of West Rand gold fields

The FSE conducts regular tours with interested and affected parties, of the West...

SA NEWS

LLM/MPhil in Environmental Law Programme launched

  The Department of Public Law at the University of Pretoria hosted a launch of its LLM and MPhil programmes in Environmental Law, coordinated by Ms Melanie Murcott, Senior Lecturer, Environmental and Administrative Law, in February 2017.

Water Show

The FSE will be presenting at a keynote panel discussion at "The Water Show Africa" on the 29th of March.

Lauded for research on SA acid mine drainage

The launch of Acid mine drainage in South Africa: Development actors, policy impacts and broader implications, by Suvania Naidoo, took place on 10 February 2017. The book has proven to be a timely publication because of the incipient water crisis in South Africa. The event was hosted by Unisa’s Department of Development Studies in the College of Human Sciences. The guests were welcomed by the chair of the department, Prof Gretchen du Plessis, who expressed that “development studies is an ever-changing discipline and is a space where different issues converge”. She further stated that the book fills a void in our knowledge about acid mine drainage (AMD) and that the publication is “an example of hard work which results in big achievements”.

Truth of the dust that brings death

  A new hard-hitting report from Harvard Law School details how South Africa has failed to meet its human rights obligations concerning gold mining in and around Joburg. Bonnie Docherty, who led the research, spoke to Sheree Bega

WATER

Eastern Basin acid water plant is "sledgehammer"

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has used a "sledgehammer" for its R1bn treatment plant for acid mine drainage (AMD) on the Eastern mining basin that could ultimately create more toxic water.  This is the view of water strategy and consulting mining hydrologist Kym Morton, who believes government is "wasting money" by pumping large volumes of water and adding lime that makes it alkaline but still toxic and hazardous. 

SABC Health Talk, Environmental Health: 25 February 2017

Focus on preventing illness rather than incurring the expense of treatment....

Rand Water tightens the taps in Gauteng

In the Midvaal suburb where Sipho Mosai lives, the gardens are lush and green be...