Greenpeace warns on nuclear disaster

2012-03-05 09:24

Cape Town - Greenpeace activists are "cleaning up" Sea Point beach in Cape Town to raise awareness of the fallout from a possible nuclear accident.

"We're trying to create awareness around the dangers of nuclear energy. It's almost one year since Fukushima happened and we're saying that wherever you live near a nuclear power station, there's a potential for such danger," Ferial Adam anti nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace Africa told News24.

The campaign illustrates the dangers of radioactivity in the event of a nuclear crisis, similar to what was experienced by Japan in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster after the earthquake and tsunami of March 11 2011.

Several countries are abandoning plans for nuclear power after the Japanese event as public concerns over the safety of nuclear power took the political spotlight.

Greenpeace wants to lobby the South African government to end nuclear programmes in favour of accelerated investment into renewable energy.

Energy mix

"Nuclear is definitely a dirty source of energy, it's expensive and it's too little, too late," Adam said.

In SA, Eskom has said that nuclear power is required for base load energy supply, but the utility has also been investing in renewable energy.

A recent African Development Bank loan of $365m will be used to build a solar plant in the Northern Cape province and wind farm plans for Port Elizabeth have be opened for public comment.

Greenpeace rejected the base load argument, saying that an energy mix could deliver the energy requirement for South Africans.

"If you have a combination and a proper mix of energy with solar and wind, you don't have to stuck on having a large base load," Adam said.

South Africa's coal reserves has been estimated at 30 400 million tons or around 3% of the global supply and Greenpeace said that the government should concentrate on renewable energy while coal was plentiful.

"Instead of wasting money and putting it into nuclear energy, we're saying that now is the time to put it into renewable energy," said Adam.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

  • ludlowdj - 2012-03-05 10:07

    Building Nuclear plants has very little to do with what the country needs and everything to do with the profits certain high placed officials will realize.

      indianajohn - 2012-04-20 10:20

      Um... well... not really. The high-placed officials will make it so, but that doesn't have anything to do with nuclear power. They would do so with anything they build.

  • TheSkepticDetective - 2012-03-05 10:45

    You forget to mention that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has recently approved the construction of two new nuclear power plants in Georgia ( Scaremongering and distortion of facts: business as usual for Greenpeace.

  • Paul Bester - 2012-03-05 11:12

    Nuclear energy expensive? Yes it is, but it produces enough energy? Green energy is expensive and produces not nearly enough, basically a waste of money.

  • marius.dumas - 2012-03-05 11:14

    biological risks to radiation around us: Dose from living near a coal-fired power station: 0.0003 mSv/year Dose from living near a nuclear power station: 0.0001–0.01 mSv/year Normal natural soil 0.3mS/yr Cosmic background radiation at sea level 0.25 mS/yr Dose from sleeping next to a human for 8 hours every night: 0.02 mSv/yr C-14+ P-40 in body from food (human body radiation) 0.4mS/yr Dose from smoking 30 cigarettes a day: 13-60 mSv/year Nuclear related accidents since 1961: about 70 onsite deaths, 4000 estimated deaths from cancer related to nuclear accidents. Since 1885 in 121 coal mining accidents = 20151 deaths After 1986 there was 9 people dead from nuclear accidents, and 10011 dead in coal mines. Is nuclear energy really more dangerous?

      TheSkepticDetective - 2012-03-05 11:16

      Excellent point!

      S - 2012-03-05 12:40

      Yep, definitely the cleanest, safest and cheapest alternative available for South Africa. The only viable "green energy" is hydro, which is not feasible in SA. It's high time the Greenpeace bunny huggers pull their heads out of their beehinds and face the facts. Making waves about the environment is OK, but only if you have done your homework.

      Fanie - 2012-03-05 16:15

      Indeed - you know the funny thing is that the bunnyhuggers cry "electric car" they know WHERE the elctricity is generated...NO, and how toxic their liitle Prius et al. is NO

  • wesleywt - 2012-03-05 12:03

    Does anyone care about Greenpeace anymore?

      S - 2012-03-05 12:51

      Not really. The whales have been saved, they don't seem to give a damn about the rhino, so I fail to see what their relevance is.

      indianajohn - 2012-04-20 10:55

      I support their general mission, but I've lost all real respect for them because they behave like children, demanding the impossible. Moan moan moan, with no workable solutions. Nuclear power is a good thing.

  • Clement - 2012-03-05 12:39

    Safety comes first. Everything must be invented inorder to simplify and better our lives not to harm.

      TheSkepticDetective - 2012-03-05 12:43

      In which case, nuclear power is our best option and FAR safer than coal. And would that be harm to humans, or would you count other animals as well? Wind power farms are extremely destructive, causing the deaths of thousands of birds and bats.

  • Hallo - 2012-03-05 12:42

    Greenpeace is living in a dream world frequented by hippie tree huggers. They are out of touch with reality.

      indianajohn - 2012-04-20 10:59

      That is indeed their biggest problem. Very few of their "solutions" are even possible.

  • Debbi - 2012-03-05 12:49

    Nuclear energy may be "safe" and inexpensive but let me tell you when the siren went off for Koeberg last week I very nearly filled my shorts! Its easy to poo poo what Greenpeace are doing if you don't live within a few kms of a nuclear power station. The siren for Koeberg was merely a drill but I did not know that at the time and I was in a state of panic that my husband and father and my pets were at home (very few kms from Koeberg) and that I would not be able to get to them in time to get them out. I'll take windfarms and solar plants any day of the week over Koeberg, thank you.

      Hallo - 2012-03-05 12:57

      Firstly - you chose to live in the area despite the Nuclear Plant up the road. Secondly the area in which is you live probably only exists due to the existence of Koeberg. You should be happy that drills are being conducted and should perhaps be more aware of the happenings at Koeberg. Wind farms and solar plants are not cost effective and by no means a solution to our current situation. We need more Koebergs, now.

      marius.dumas - 2012-03-05 13:35

      I would rather be near Koeberg and hear their siren than 1000m under ground in a coal mine and hear theirs without warning. Even in a real nuclear accident the chances are very good that the siren will be going off at Koeberg long before anyone will be able to measure any radiation in the areas around it. What Koeberg defines as an accident and that what can harm you are two very different things. Even in a serious nuclear accident situation you will have plenty of time to find out if you need to evacuate or not. The odds of a accident so severe that you cannot get away to save your life only happened once in history in 1986 Pripyat, Ukrainian SSR where 56 people died and 4000 people developed cancer. It was long ago, poor country, with poor technology and perhaps poor warning systems as well. In modern times with designs like Koeberg, the chances of a catastrophic failure that cause death in surrounding areas are so small, you have much better chance to be killed by a robber. But if you are in the bottom of a coal mine and your hear that siren, you have much more reason to start praying. Even Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The worst in modern times 3 people died of non-nuclear related deaths, the blast or explosion killed them and not the radiation. In a week here in SA more kids die in mini-bus accidents. The nuclear-phobia is irrational when you look at the science, history and statistics. its the word "nuclear" what people fear and not the actual risk.

      marius.dumas - 2012-03-05 13:43

      @Paralegal Just to add, you fright is very understandable and I would blame Koeberg and even call it very irresponsible to do drills like that without informing the surrounding area properly. The reason I say so, is that if people get used to the siren not knowing if it is an accident or drill, many people will ignore it even if it's not a drill. So I wouldn't blame you for being upset about it. I would be angry too, It's poor organisation on Koeberg’s side not to warn the surrounding areas in advance properly. However, the risk of a real danger is very small.

      Debbi - 2012-03-05 14:15

      @marius.dumas: Its all fine and well to say that it is safe and the chances of a fatal accident at Koeberg is very slim but it has been proven that, in the event of some major disaster at Koeberg, the surrounding residential areas would not be able to be evacuated timeously - they estimate that it would take a number of DAYS to evacuate as the road network would not be able to cope with the huge traffic volumes. (Just sit in the peak hour traffic every morning and night and you'll see what I mean) @Hallo, the reason I chose to live out in that area is because it is still one of the few places in Cape Town where the crime rate is relatively low, children still play cricket in the street in front of their homes, children walk to school, pensioners happily walk to the shops and the property prices are not astronomical.

      marius.dumas - 2012-03-05 14:56

      So there you said it, crime rate is a more relevant criterion for your decision than radiation risk. Well you said it. You are right. Crime is a much bigger life risk. Like in Japan, for every 0 people who died due to the nuclear power plant radiation, 15 812 died because of the actual tsunami. Evacuation 1)You don’t have to drive, you can walk. The accumulated dose of radiation in most worst case scenarios will give you a few days before it becomes critical. 2)At Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster it took a month before it was necessary to evacuate up to 20km radius. 3)It took a day before 2km radius had to be evacuated 4)There was no known radiation fatalities. The reason is that the evacuation is determined by a criterion of dosage rate of 20mSv/yr less than the radiation of someone who smokes 30 cigarettes a day. 5)For lifesaving work the EPA allows rescue workers a safe limit of 750mSv dose in short time. You will be evacuated as a member of public if your exposure rate will accumulate to that over 37years. lighting up a cigarette will give you more radiation than the radiation of the power station in crisis. Rescue workers are allowed to be exposed to radiation in a week what you as a member of public is not allowed to absorb in 37 years time. You will be far from danger even if you crawl out of there. The radiation around coal power stations are generally more than at nuclear power stations. Natural coal contains nuclear isotopes that gets blasted into the air.

      marius.dumas - 2012-03-05 14:56 quote “Nuclear power has caused far fewer accidental deaths per unit of energy generated than other major forms of power generation. Energy production from coal, natural gas, and hydropower have caused far more deaths due to accidents.[103] However, nuclear power plant accidents rank first in terms of their economic cost, accounting for 41 percent of all property damage attributed to energy accidents.[104]”

      marius.dumas - 2012-03-05 16:02

      @Paralegal you say it will take days for your area, Koeberg, Melkbos to evacuate...every morning between 7am and 9am more than half your area "evacuates" to work. In the worst case scenario you would require to evacuate up to 20km in a months time. that's Melkbos, Tabele view and Richwood and a few farms. You tell me it is proven that it will take days? I don't think so. Then it will probably take days for people to get to work every morning.

      Phoenix - 2012-03-05 20:47

      Marius do you remember the chaos with the power outages a couple of years ago? Melkbos and surrounding areas will evacuate easily. Be on the peninsula and see how quickly you can evacuate from an 80km radius evacuation.

      TheSkepticDetective - 2012-03-06 06:46

      @Paralegal, you say " it has been proven that... it would take a number of DAYS to evacuate" Who proved it, and how?

      indianajohn - 2012-04-20 11:01

      Dee, have you ever been in a car? An aeroplane? In fact... have you ever left the house? These things are all much more dangerous than Koeberg. Why don't you have a panic about those things too? Who will pay for your wind farms and solar panels? They are ruinously expensive. We can go that route, but I assure you that electricity will be too expensive for most, and people struggling to put food on the table do not care about the "dangers" of nuclear power. Not one bit.

  • Netizen - 2012-03-05 16:03

    Greenpeace logic 1) Global warming is happening due to CO2 from things like burning coal. 2) We need to develop renewables to replace coal. 3) In the meantime we must not build nuclear but rather BURN MORE COAL. What is going on?? How can you call yourself "green"???? What do you mean burn coal while it's plentiful? You've been saying how it's the most evil substance ever and now you're fine with using it? What kind of environmental organisation are you? Nuclear kills far less than coal or gas. Nuclear produces no CO2. Greenpeace clearly want us to build more coal power plants like the Germans. See link below for details.

      Nicolas Havenga - 2012-03-06 00:12

      If we utilize coal for a while longer we will cause more short term damage but since it is temporary we will benefit from it in the long run. If a nuclear event like cheronobyl occurs in south africa nuclear energy will claim far more lives thank coal and other fossil fuels.

      TheSkepticDetective - 2012-03-06 06:54

      And the chances of a "nuclear event" like Chernobyl happening are so vanishingly small that they are barely even there. Do you know what actually happened at Chernobyl? You should read about the experiment on the Wikipedia article ( - the disaster was a result of human error. And, we don't use that kind of reactor any more, the newer reactor designs are far less prone to overheating and meltdown.

      marius.dumas - 2012-03-06 08:19

      I posted a quote earlier from wikipedia where the science, history and statistics concluded that nuclear accidents are more expensive, but they claim by far less lives than coal, hydro or any other source of energy. You can debate the danger of nuclear all you want, but for every person you mention who died from nuclear disasters you can multiply it at least with 5 to get only the coal-mining related deaths. I will not argue that nuclear have claimed lives, I argue that it is by far less and there is no real reason for the trend to worsen. Especially with new, modern reactor designs. I agree with TheSkepticDetective, there is no way you can compare the technology of the 1980’s with that we are spoiled with today. While Greenpease was protesting against nuclear tests and its dangers. While nuclear scientist made nuclear power much safer by ignoring Greenpeace without killing anyone in the process. You can argue that mines and coal power stations became safer due to modern technology as well, but still they claim more lives due to accidents than nuclear.

      marius.dumas - 2012-03-06 08:20

      Greenpease worry about how to deal with nuclear waste, but they want every one to have solar panel on their houses, I hope they have a plan how to process 60 000 000 batteries every few years that contains toxic acids and heavy metals. You see, managing one big nuclear site is far easier than managing 20 000 000 small solar sites wastages. I hope they have a way on how to pick up dead birds on their wind farms or how to prevent the great noise pollution of affecting the environment. You see its far cheaper to maintain two big generators than a 1000 smaller ones. But the funny part is, you still need a base grid supply which is constant, since wind or sun energy is never guaranteed. So what will the base energy be, nuclear or coal? There is no clear black or white in this debate.

      marius.dumas - 2012-03-06 08:45

      April 6, 1993 — INES Level 4 - Tomsk, Russia – Explosion The INES scale is from 0 – 7 so this is rather high up. A pressure buildup led to an explosive mechanical failure in a 34 cubic meter stainless steel reaction vessel buried in a concrete bunker under building 201 of the radiochemical works at the Tomsk-7 Siberian Chemical Enterprise plutonium reprocessing facility. The vessel contained a mixture of concentrated nitric acid, uranium (8757 kg), plutonium (449 g) along with a mixture of radioactive and organic waste from a prior extraction cycle. The explosion dislodged the concrete lid of the bunker and blew a large hole in the roof of the building, releasing approximately 6 GBq of Pu 239 and 30 TBq of various other radionuclides into the environment. The contamination plume extended 28 km NE of building 201, 20 km beyond the facility property. The small village of Georgievka (pop. 200) was at the end of the fallout plume, but no fatalities, illnesses or injuries were reported. The accident exposed 160 on-site workers and almost two thousand cleanup workers to total doses of up to 50 mSv (the threshold limit for radiation workers is 100 mSv per 5 years). The worker on site got equal radiation contamination as going for 70 mammograms or about 50 CAT scans, or what a smoker get from smoking 30 cigarettes per day for 1.5 years. Or 15 times less than the maximum a emergency worker on a nuclear site is allowed to be exposed to (750mSv) according to the EPA.

      marius.dumas - 2012-03-06 09:37 Only in the US, In 2004, 148 people died from unintended injuries from gas and other explosions. Only in the US there is more people dead from gas explosions than since 1986 with nuclear power accidents in the world. People who believe that nuclear is so dangerous…really should think again.

  • wouter.klopper - 2012-03-05 17:12

    60 nuclear reactors currently under construction in 14 countries.

  • wouter.klopper - 2012-03-05 17:14

    60 nuclear reactors currently under construction in 14 countries.

  • Horst - 2012-03-05 20:22

    Interesting! Didn't these Greenpeace people at one stage dump some coal in front of the ESKOM head office? Making the point that we must get away from greenhouse-gas-producing coal.

      Netizen - 2012-03-09 12:24

      Irony is a higher cognitive function...

  • strangerthingshavehappened - 2012-03-06 12:23

    It always amazes me to see in these comment threads how almost everyone misses the point entirely. The argument is NOT coal vs Nuclear. It is COAL and NUCLEAR vs CLEAN RENEWABLES. It's sad to see that this is still not an option in so many people's minds when the simple fact is that it HAS been working, IS working and WILL work progressively more efficiently in the future in many places around the world with FAR LESS renewable energy resources than South Africa. Some comments by Dr. Rianne Teule, an expert on nuclear energy in her blog:

      marius.dumas - 2012-03-06 12:50

      It amazes me that some people would learn about nuclear science on greenpeace's website. It also amazes me that people think there is renewable energy that can provide a constant supply of energy without the help of coal or nuclear power. It also amazes me that some people think that we can afford to create renewable energy sources to replace that of nuclear. It also amazes me that some people think there is renewable energy available to us that is environment friendly.

      Netizen - 2012-03-09 12:28

      It *is* nuclear vs coal because currently the rate at which we can roll out renewables and the problems with renewables hold us back. The prime example is Germany. They are going *full* renewable but they will only achieve 80% of it by 2050. In the meantime they are building coal and gas. In fact every country that does not choose nuclear for base load power has to choose coal or gas (look at Germany, Japan and Mexico). What you're looking at is the transition energy to a renewable energy future. I believe that renewables should be developed while nuclear is built. As the renewable tech matures we can gradually replace it with nuclear.

  • Pamela - 2012-03-06 14:01

    Nuclear energy originates from uranium mining. If you look at the cradle to grave process of nuclear energy it is not so clean after all. There is also deaths recorded in uranium mines. Nature can handle CO2 if we help with additional trees, but radioactive contamination is a totally different story.

      marius.dumas - 2012-03-06 14:38

      You made a few interesting points, the one that interest me is, Human body has naturally about 0.4mSv/year, Soil naturally has about 3 mSv/year, the air is naturally about 0.2mSv/year so I guess it has to be more than that then. A working nuclear power station adds about 0.0001mSv/year to its environment around it. Even at level 7 nuclear disasters which are extremely rare the contamination has not gone much over 20mSv at nearby areas. All isotopes have a half-life cycle for the exponential nuclear decay they naturally go through. Even the food you eat, like natural salts containing p-40 isotopes give you a dose of 0.4mSv per year. All plants create radio active C-14 as part of photosynthesis this is what radio carbon dating methods use to estimate the age of geological remains. I don’t think small amounts of isotopes is anything new to nature at all. radon gas in the atmosphere which is natural, set you back with a dose of about 2mSv/year The highest measurement in March 28, 1979, Three Mile Island nuclear accident was recorded 0.46mSv/year. Dose from standing in front of the granite of the United States Capitol building: 0.85 mSv/year So the part that interests me is how much radiation contamination are we talking about, what nature cannot handle?

      marius.dumas - 2012-03-06 14:54

      The other problem I see is, that even if a nuclear power station adds 0.0001mSv/yr to the immediate environment, a coal power station adds 0.0003mSv, possibly three times more. We need to remember the carbon in the steel that experience major heating develop radioactive isotopes in a coal power station but most importantly, the coal it self carries isotopes of thorium and uranium that contaminate the area up to 80km with radioactive isotopes as well. So the comparison that nuclear creates radio active contamination but coal doesn't is false.

      marius.dumas - 2012-03-06 15:33

      On the coal mining vs uranium mining I don't know about the amount of fatalities, But I do know there are about 138 416 times more coal mined per year than Uranium. I think it's safe to assume there are much more fatalities in coal mines in total than uranium. Uranium production 50 572 t/yr Coal production more than 7 000 000 000t/yr

      marius.dumas - 2012-03-06 15:54

      The following links say quite abit about the radio activity of coal.

      Netizen - 2012-03-09 12:32

      Hey Pamela, if you read the studies you're referring to carefully what they do to calculate Nuclear "cradle to grave" cost is problematic in two ways. Firstly it assumes that all vehicles involved must use fossil fuels. Secondly it assumes that all power usage comes from coal power plants. If however we had electric vehicles and received power from mainly nuclear plants then those two points would be entirely moot. If you calculate the CO2 renewable costs using the above assumptions you will find that they balloon upwards.

  • Jurgens - 2012-03-06 18:45

    Duncan, your spelling is appalling and so are your grammatical errors; not just in this story but most stories you've penned.

  • Kevin Thompson - 2014-08-27 18:46

    Free energy is in abundance why would anyone want nuclear energy. You have to get rid of the waste that nobody wants and it has huge risks. I don't know of any risks with solar or wind power

  • pages:
  • 1