A Japanese nuclear energy expert on Tuesday cautioned South African decision makers to think carefully about nuclear waste before committing to its nuclear build programme.
“You have to make sure what will be done with spent fuel nuclear waste before you commit to nuclear power, and that is a headache for all countries that have a nuclear power station,” former vice chair of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, Tatsujiro Suzuki, told Fin24.
Suzuki was speaking at a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945 at the University of the Western Cape.
Japan was still battling to manage the aftermath of the world’s worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant north of Tokyo.
The Fukushima power station, operated by Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), was hit by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
Public acceptance of nuclear waste was a serious issue, said Suzuki.
“Even if you solve the nuclear safety issue and the economics, waste management needs to be addressed,” he said.
South Africa was reaching the advanced stages of a nuclear procurement deal which aimed to provide the country with 9 600 MW of nuclear energy between 2023 and 2030.
Suzuki, who holds a PhD in nuclear engineering, said nuclear waste management was “technically not difficult at all” and “the problem can be solved”.
According to Suzuki public trust was a big issue in Japan at the moment.
“As far as I am concerned in Japan it is very difficult because of the accident, the public cannot trust authorities or an expert like myself,” he said.
MP in the energy portfolio committee Tandi Mahambehlala told Fin24 after the event that waste management would not be a new phenomenon for SA.
“Here in South Africa we do have a waste repository site, which is Vaalputs in the Northern Cape. It is used by Eskom for the nuclear power station (Koeberg),” she said.
I don’t think that it would be a problem because it is among the requirements that we must have a proper programme, she said.