Resistance to nuclear energy is warranted

It is ironic that Raymond Pillay in Business Report’s letters on July 16 (“Nuclear disaster at Fukushima did not cost any lives”), should accuse the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists of being “anti-nuclear”, when his company seeks to profit from providing training for the same scientists and engineers he seeks to dismiss.

Following these august men and women, a truly scientific view is based on hard facts, not self-serving opinion.

None of us who have engaged in long hours of fact-finding within the nuclear industry over the last 30 years are surprised by the severity of the official Japanese report on Fukushima. Such ignorance and collusion have been a long-standing hallmark of the industry and its governmental collaborators. What is surprising, is the willingness of intelligent citizens in an open society to tolerate the lies.

This disgusting business continues with the statement that Fukushima “killed no one”. The same rubbish was spoken in the wake of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and seems to me to make a mockery of the heartache that resulted for many.

Since Mr Pillay is cavalier about his affiliation, I have no compunction but to quote from an anti-nuclear campaigner, epidemiologist Professor Chris Busby, who has worked for many years with radiation victims. In his Occasional Paper (July 2011), Dr Busby shows how the projected cancers from Fukushima in the next 10 years will be 2 838. Using his own model, he calculates a number well in excess of 100 000 within 10 years and nearly 200 000 additional cancers in 50 years.

Worse still is that over 200 000 people will never be able to return their homes.

The reason is an insidious by-product of nuclear fission called Cesium-137, which can persist in the environment for up to 200 years. Because it can easily contaminate dairy products and other foodstuffs it can be carried directly to the internal organs of human beings. Given the rapid metabolic rate of children, it affects them most of all from birth to 14 years.

The consequences of Chernobyl have been studied for some time by independent eastern European scientists. In a book written by Dr Alexey Yablokov and colleagues, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, published by the New York Academy of Sciences, it is carefully argued from over 5 000 peer-reviewed papers that about 1 million people have been affected by the negative effects of that catastrophe.

Even normal operations of a nuclear power station are problematic. In 1994, according to the Environmental Science Laboratory reports issued by Eskom to the old Council for Nuclear Safety, nearly 20 000 Bequerels of Cesium-137 were released in liquid discharges from Koeberg. Only a thorough health assessment of all citizens living within 50km of Koeberg over 30 years would determine the impact of such continuous emissions and effluent.

The last quote by Mr Pillay, however, should cause more sober readers to chuckle. “Upward pressure on energy prices”, “Additional concerns about energy security” and “More expensive to combat climate change?” These are the very arguments that make nuclear power redundant in an open democracy!

The development of a nuclear fleet will be opposed by local residents affiliated to the Koeberg Alert Alliance, the Save Bantamsklip organisation, and the Thyspunt Alliance. No such popular resistance will be found anywhere against off-shore gas, solar energy and wind farms.

Mike Kantey is director of Watercourse