On May 29, Greenpeace Africa activists dressed in nuclear emergency suits dumped marked nuclear waste bags and placed look-a-like nuclear barrels at the entrance of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) building. Greenpeace demanded a halt to discussions aimed at expanding nuclear power generation not only in South Africa but also the rest of the African continent.
In the early morning protest, Greenpeace Africa activists blockaded the premises of the IDC where the conference on ‘Nuclear power's future for Africa’ was taking place. The conference was to be opened by South Africa's Energy Minister Dipuo Peters and attracted high-ranking delegates from across Africa. Shortly after chaining themselves to the gates, aggressive security guards beat the locks to break them and forcefully dragged activists off into their security office. Meanwhile as different activists offloaded nuclear bags to further block the entrance, security guards began flinging bags around, and started using them for a pillow fight with journalists and photographers. Shortly after it was announced inside the conference venue that the Minister of Energy would no longer be attending the conference, and her speech was read by a representative.
"Minister Peters' support to expand nuclear power in Africa is extremely irresponsible given the socio-economic challenges prevalent on the continent" said Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaigner Ferrial Adam. "As a continent we should be learning from what history has shown about nuclear power: It is a dirty and dangerous source of energy, and one that will always be vulnerable to the deadly combination of human errors, design failures, and natural disasters," added Adam. “In South Africa, the nuclear process has been marked by secrecy and non-transparency. Key questions around the design, cost and safety are unanswered. The government's dream of becoming a nuclear power will end up as a nuclear nightmare and should stop now before it is too late."
At the conference, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe stressed the necessity of replacing coal with other energy sources, particularly nuclear energy. With that in mind, the country would build a large nuclear plant, Motlanthe said in a video message to the conference. He highlighted the need to produce electricity in other parts of the country to spread the electricity production points around the national grid. "This is a strategically sensible approach, which requires us to use other energy sources in addition to coal. Nuclear power is ideal in this sense, because we can build large nuclear power plants at points around our southern coastline, and potentially elsewhere in the future," he noted, ignoring the fact that it is obvious large nuclear power plants are not the best way to decentralize electricity production. (Developing the smaller high temperature reactors –PBMR- in South Africa failed miserably.)
In its integrated resource plan, the South African government aims to increase the nuclear output to 9.6 GW by 2029. South Africa has the African continent's only nuclear power station at Koeberg, with two reactors (total 1.8 GW).
Sources: iafrica, 29 May 2012 / Xinhua, 29 May 2012 / IAEA, PRIS Country details South Africa
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