Protecting nuclear waste: Important that SA commits to a treaty

FF Plus

Protecting nuclear waste: Important that SA commits to a treaty
Protecting nuclear waste: Important that SA commits to a treaty

It is a well-known fact that nuclear waste remains hazardous for centuries. A lesser-known fact is that used nuclear waste leaving an electricity generating reactor is more suitable for making an atomic bomb than when it first entered the reactor.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has, for reasons like the aforementioned, amended its international treaty to improve the physical protection of facilities and nuclear material used for peaceful purposes.

As a member of the IAEA, South Africa signed and implemented this convention in 2007.

Cabinet referred these amendments to Parliament in 2018 already and the FF Plus welcomes the fact that they are now being tabled, especially because South Africa has an incompetent and corrupt government in the ANC.

The amendments to the convention provide a list of offences, like the import and export of nuclear material without permission. It also aims to improve the cooperation between countries concerning information on unlawful activities relating to nuclear material.

It prescribes common standards for, among other things, the physical protection of nuclear material for domestic use, storage and transport, as well as the protection of nuclear material and facilities against sabotage.

Nuclear power has been shrouded in controversy since its inception. Most people heard about it for the first time when two atomic bombs destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Apart from the fact that war had suddenly become a lot more dangerous, the peaceful possibilities, particularly for creating cheaper electricity, captured imaginations.

The world’s nuclear powers did not trust South Africa with the necessary information at first, and exploratory work was initially conducted at Pelindaba and Valindaba outside Pretoria.

There is a very thin line between the peaceful and non-peaceful uses of nuclear power. South Africa was able to prove that uranium was being enriched and that nuclear power was being used for peaceful purposes, but atomic bombs were also developed and built.

The NP government did not want to let the ANC get its hands on such weapons.

But meanwhile, South Africa’s only nuclear power station, Koeberg, was successfully attacked by the ANC’s military wing in 1982 just before its completion, and Greenpeace succeeded in hanging banners on the building in 2002.

In 2005, there were reports of the “bolt in the reactor” incident, which left Cape Town in the dark.

Clearly, nuclear plants are not invincible. The events of 1982 and 2002 prove it. And at Koeberg, the high-grade nuclear waste is stored on the premises.

People with evil intentions and the necessary knowledge and skills would, therefore, not need to produce nuclear material, at least not for a few centuries, they can simply steal what has already been manufactured.

Thus, a binding, international treaty on the safeguarding of nuclear material is of the utmost importance.

Read the original article in Afrikaans by Dr. Wynand Boshoff on FF Plus