The eyes of the world are still firmly fixed on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan as the country battles to contain the second worst nuclear accident the world has ever seen.
Workers at the plant have a new problem – what to do with the millions of liters of radioactive water that was used to try cool down the fuel rods after the earthquake that hit Japan caused damage to the facility.
Their solution at present, is to pump the contaminated water back into the ocean and claim that the life threatening pollution will disperse into the Pacific Ocean and pose little threat to mankind.
Unfortunately the catastrophe at Fukushima has confirmed the suspicions of many who are opposed to nuclear energy. The industry itself operates in a murky underworld where safety does not always feature as the top priority. After the earthquake in Japan, the levels of denial about the true state of affairs at the crippled nuclear power plant were strident and only after the facts became impossible to deny, did officials start to admit the truth behind them.
In South Africa, there is no reason to believe that Eskom would be any more transparent than their counterparts in Japan in the case of an emergency. Those who have attended the public participation meetings held regarding the building of a nuclear power plant at Thyspunt have often left the meetings frustrated at the level of arrogance of the Eskom officials.
The Impact Studies have been proved to be flawed by reasonable people and the genuine concerns of the fishing and tourism industries in the area have all but been swept under the carpet by Eskom as having no relevance.
And what of global warming, which may pose the biggest safety threat to nuclear facilities along South Africa’s coastline? Rising sea levels are a reality, yet are given hardly a mention by Eskom in their grandiose schemes to build a fleet of nuclear power stations in South Africa.
Jeffreys Bay sits on the border of the 20 km emergency evacuation zone of Thyspunt. Yet this 20 km zone will mean nothing should the South West wind be blowing and radioactive contamination is spewing from Thyspunt. In Japan, the American authorities urged its citizens to evacuate a 80 km radius around Fukushima.
Despite the opposition to Thyspunt, it may actually be finances that saves South Africa from following the path to nuclear energy. The cost of building nuclear power plants is exorbitant and the South African Government may just continue to produce energy through coal based power stations, despite the damage to the environment.
From there, the battle will be to become self sufficient from renewable energy which is the only logical solution to the world’s insatiable demand for power.