Zuma confronts faith groups on nuclear power

At COP17 in Durban, there has been strong input from civil society that nuclear power is not the answer for South Africa.

Faith groups have long held the view that nuclear power is ethically indefensible, and they are becoming more vocal on this point.  Nuclear power benefits the current generation, but leaves behind waste that must be safely stored for hundreds of thousands of years.  During that time, it is statistically likely that some accident or leak will occur, which could result in the contamination of land and water resources.  Climate change is likely to make these resources scarcer than they are today, so this type of contamination, a disaster at the best of times,  may happen at a time when the world can ill afford it.

It is these concerns that have prompted statements such as this, from Bishop Geoff Davies: “We also have to say nuclear energy is not a responsible answer. The great news is that God has given us all the energy we need from the sun and the wind and the ocean currents.”  Other groups have done research on solid scientific models which give substance to these sentiments, showing how South Africa has abundant solar and wind resources which means there is no need for the risks inherent in nuclear power, all too apparent after the Fukushima disaster.

In response, president Zuma said that South Africa has abandoned nuclear weapons, and government policy is to now pursue nuclear energy.  There is some debate as to whether this was missing the point, or just a clever spin.

Faith group leaders have a large influence on the public opinion, and it would be wise of our politicians to engage with their concerns more deeply.

4 responses to “Zuma confronts faith groups on nuclear power

  1. The great news Bishop Geoff Davies, is that nuclear power here on earth doesn’t come from aliens. The same God created man. Surely we must respect and explore every invention without blindly climbing on the bandwagon. I don’t see why high level radioactive waste like spent fuel rods are seen as such a problem. They are actually a very valuable resource the French and Japanese are both recycling theirs.

    • With respect to reprocessing of nuclear fuel, you may be interested to read an article in Scientific American, “Nuclear Fuel Recycling: More Trouble Than It’s Worth”. With the technology currently in use, and planned in South Africa, the facts are that spent fuel cannot be recycled. Some usable Plutonium can be extracted, which can be used either for nuclear weapons, or for MOX fuel, which is considered to be a dangerous alternative to uranium fuel. Some Uranium can also be extracted, but that then needs to be enriched, resulting in depleted uranium, or DU. DU cannot be used in the current reactors, so can either be stored in the hope that a new technology is used in the future, or used for other purposes such as armour penetrating shells. Neither are particularly attractive options. Also, even if all the dreams of recycling become reality, there will still be a need for a long term repository.
      With regard to Japan, the Japanese have 54 nuclear reactors, and has now shutdown all but 10 of them due to safety concerns. It is very unlikely ay new nuclear plants will be built in Japan, because the local authorities are refusing permission for this in each prefecture.

  2. Missing the point AND a clever spin. They dont need a nuclear weapons facility anyway, Koeberg is making 30 tons of nuclear weapons every year already. I wonder how much it is costing taxpayers to guard this against theft. And who is going to pay WHEN they have an accident? It is not fair to make adjacent homeowners or other taxpayers have to take this risk. Producing yet more nuclear waste is immoral, irresponsible, ill-conceived and indefensible as a policy.

  3. “only 3 of 54 nuclear reactors in Japan now active” – Prof Kleiner (DFG, & German Nuclear Ethics Committee member) . . . . . and still no black outs

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