The Smelters approved at Pelindaba for NECSA and the flaws in the approval

The Smelters approved at Pelindaba for NECSA and the flaws in the approval

At a public meeting in Centurion last November, NECSA (the Nuclear Energy Company of South Africa) presented a flawed and inherently weak case for the approval of the intended smelter (more than one was not mentioned).  Upon being questioned about costs and impacts, the presenter was unable to give the meeting any idea of costs involved and who would be paying for the construction of the smelter.  The impacts were dismissed as irrelevant, as they would add little to the ambient radioactivity in the surrounding communities.

However the meeting was promised that the costings would be released to everyone present.  To date, no such thing has happened.

On Saturday 17th August at the Public Safety Information Forum, The National Nuclear Regulator announced that construction of the two smelters and cold commissioning had been approved.

This flies in the face of the presentations done by concerned communities and NGOs last year.  The smelter technology relies on HEPA filters not permitting radioactive particulate matter into the air. However, it was presented at the meeting, that HEPA filters do not meet this requirement.  International research has proved that they do not and cannot:

We start with Marion Fulk’s affidavits, on HEPA filters, he is the US nuclear scientist /whistle-blower. His affidavits from court appearances and background on the Tri-Valley CARES cases have been studied and prove that the filters do not work correctly or safely. 

Clearly Hepa filters are very good at removing certain particle sizes – providing conditions are correct and lifetimes are not exceeded.

Our main concern is that while HEPA filters remove approximately 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns or larger — there are TRILLIONS of particles in each cubic litre of air space.   Even though HEPA technology was specifically designed (in the 1950s) for removing radioactive particles from nuclear research labs,HEPA filters are only partially effective.  Particles that are smaller than about 0.3 microns go right through.  That’s one reason why radioactive elements are so dangerous — because these are released in the environment as individual atoms — not as a large particle of dust, or even as molecules.  They are too small to filter out. 

Finally to set the record straight – the failure of the smelter may be relatively localised in low wind conditions, although all radioactive substances will remain in our environment for ever, and are CUMULATIVE. The worst case scenario we referred to in our press release was a catastrophic failure at Pelindaba with Safari 1 and the spent fuel stored on site (Safari 1 is the oldest research reactor in the world that is still operating) The smelter may or may not be the catalyst in such an event, however, a failure of the smelter alone would be catastrophe enough…

And IMPORTANTLY: the NNR has IGNORED EVIDENCE and appears to HAVE FAILED IN ITS DUTY TO INVESTIGATE EVIDENCE IT SOLICITED IN THE Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and hearings process, and that it is playing with people’s lives by refuting, WITHOUT presenting evidence of its own, that it believes may credibly counter research presented to them, and the testimony of senior US nuclear scientists who risked their careers to come clean on the matter. These are strong points that need to be made!

Remember in all nuclear-related EIAs the environmental authority now rests solely with NNR as a result of its agreement with the Dept of Environment, so the public have no recourse unless the NNR is forced to justify itself, its actions and its licensing. Otherwise it is merely acting as a law unto itself, and above the law. This, clearly, is completely unconstitutional.

Into this scenario, we have to put the catastrophe at Fukushima.  This is now polluting the Pacific Ocean with 3000 tonnes of radioactive water a day.  The Nuclear Industry has merely said that no deaths can be attributed to the explosions at Fukushima during the meltdown in February 2011.  This is where the Nuclear Industry has to be called to account, not only on Fukushima but also on Chernobyl.  The ongoing collateral damage from both incidents is discounted, just as the collateral damage from the dropping of the Atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima on the 6th August 1945.

A major HEPA filter failure also occurred in Turin in June 1998 and raised radiation levels to 1000 times greater than normal across France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Germany.  If required, we can compile a list of every HEPA filter failure.

The NECSA site at Pelindaba is less than 3 Kilometres from the boundary of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site, which is a major tourist attraction.  A proposed smelter 40 Kilometres from the Yellowstone National Park, which is also a World Heritage Site, was turned down.  Are South African World Heritage sites of less value than others in the world?

In addition, the Pelindaba site puts many communities at risk.  Movement out of a disaster impact requires that many residents have to exit past the site into order to reach “safety”.  This is direct violation of IAEA best practice.  Smelters are also in violation of IAEA best practice, as containment and not dispersal is considered to be preferable.  Radioactive metals and other waste are recommended to be encapsulated for least impact and greatest safety.

Note the wording here, the IAEA does not regulate – it merely recommends best practice.  Based on Chernobyl, Fukushima, San Onofre and Sellafield, can we actually trust the Nuclear Industry to follow best practice?

Based on the excluded cost of nuclear, which is to be another posting, we are dealing with an industry which has no concern for ecosystems and is totally self-absorbed.

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