News24

Japanese farmer tells SA nuclear is bad

2012-02-29 22:44

Johannesburg - A farmer evacuated from her home near a Japanese nuclear power plant visited Soweto Wednesday to talk to impoverished South Africans about how the poor are worst hit by catastrophes like the one triggered by an earthquake in her homeland.

Anti-nuclear activists from Greenpeace, which is trying to spark a grass-roots anti-nuclear movement here, brought Ayako Oga to South Africa. The country has Africa's only nuclear energy plant and plans to build more.

Oga said she fled her home some 5km from the Fukushima plant on March 11, the day a massive earthquake hit Japan. A power pylon toppled, cutting electricity to the cooling system at Fukushima. The roof of one reactor was blown off by a hydrogen explosion.

Poor people who were evacuated to escape leaking radiation have found it hard to get jobs elsewhere in Japan, Oga said. She added the rich are able to afford food that is guaranteed not to have been contaminated by radiation, and have better access to information about how to stay safe.

In an interview before addressing about two dozen people in the auditorium of a community college, Oga said she understood that Soweto, a neighbourhood to which blacks were restricted under apartheid, was largely poor and beset by lack of jobs and housing and Aids and other health issues.

She said its residents needed to add nuclear energy to their already long list of concerns, because "they will be the ones that will suffer the most when they face a catastrophic accident."

Greenpeace is calling on South Africa to "abandon its nuclear expansion plans in favour of a strong push to energy efficiency and renewable power." But the government has reiterated its commitment to building more reactors in the face of a growing energy crisis.

Many in Oga's audience were from community groups more accustomed to brainstorming ways to find homes or jobs, or to help people who could not afford to pay their electricity or water bills. A Zulu translator at first stumbled over whether her home town was Hiroshima or Fukushima.

Never go home

Her listeners were nonetheless engaged as Oga spoke of expecting that it would never be safe to return in her lifetime to her home, and of her longing to farm again. Oga said friends and neighbours have scattered.

Across Japan, she said, children are kept inside for fear playing outside will expose them to radiation, and people constantly monitor radiation levels.

"The use of atomic power always goes hand in hand with the threat of nuclear contamination," she said, appealing to Sowetans to help "prevent this from happening again, anywhere in the world".

After a speech and answering questions, Oga, who said she had spoken out against what she saw as the dangers of nuclear energy even before the quake, rose to sing an anti-nuclear song from her high school days. It spoke of a beloved landscape ruined by radiation.

Virginia Setshedi, a Soweto rights activist, was moved to rise to thank Oga, and then turned to the rest of the audience.

"The things that you take for granted, my comrades, the flowers, the grass, the trees, other people can no longer enjoy," Setshedi said. "So I think it's important for us to enjoy them, to protect them."

Comments
  • Bob - 2012-02-29 23:20

    I dont know about this. While I'm certain many people have suffered because of what happened at Fukushima, this seems like exploitation of this women's plight by Greenpeace just to get their point across.

  • Nicolas Havenga - 2012-03-01 00:49

    I think it is a very good initiative from Greenpeace to start a movement against nuclear power here in south africa because despite the fact that nuclear power stations provide huge amounts of stable power, they are a huge liability because if something goes wrong we have only to look at fukushima to see the devastation caused. In addition to this we will be producing nuclear waste which is increibly hard to dispose of having such a long half-life. We are a relatively fresh country with the potential to invest in eco friendly non radiation producing power sources and we should do everything we can to switch because the longer we use this dangerous power and the more NC power stations we build the harder it will be to switch.

  • Eric - 2012-03-01 08:15

    Yea because we have so many earthquakes and tsunamis in Joburg...

      Nicolas Havenga - 2012-03-01 08:33

      Natural disasters are not the only things that can cause the reactors to blow or leak. The Cheronobyl nuclear fallout was caused by human error. Something we have lots of in south africa

  • spookhuis - 2012-03-01 12:44

    It really doesn't matter what type of power generation unit is chosen there will always be objectors. Even wind turbines have come under fire of late. This I know, because I live in the shadow of the test units. Now people are complaining about the bird strikes from the turbines. You ain't never gonna please everyone until they can't charge their phones or have to have a cold shower.

  • spookhuis - 2012-03-02 09:42

    I've heard from a shipping agent that there are 400 wind turbines heading to SA.

  • Clement - 2012-03-05 12:50

    Building more NUCLEAR POWER PLANT = building our SUISIDAL wEAPONS.

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