The lives of hundreds of thousands of people continue to be affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, especially the 160 000 who fled their homes because of radioactive contamination, and continue to live in limbo without fair, just, and timely compensation. They have only a false hope of returning home, yet the Japanese government is eagerly pushing to restart reactors, against the will of its people, and without learning true lessons from Fukushima.
March 11th marks three years since the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant failed and caused over 150 000 people to flee their homes. Normal people, people with families, jobs, lost almost everything in the tragedy. Instead of helping them start over, the company responsible – (Tokyo Electric Power Company) TEPCO - has escaped full liability. Is this what South Africans can expect if nuclear investment is forced on the country? While South Africa has been fortunate not to be on the receiving end of such a disaster yet, we don’t want another Fukushima!
While precipitated by a natural disaster Fukushima is both a regulatory and accountability failure. Unlike other industries, nuclear operators, suppliers, and their investors are not required to fully compensate victims. Nuclear suppliers, in almost all circumstances, never have to make pay-outs. The nuclear industry is frequently exempt from liability, even when its disasters cover large areas, cross national boundaries, and are long lasting.
Ironically, a manufacturer of turbines for coal plants faces more potential economic liability than the supplier of nuclear reactors. In essence, nuclear liability means people liability: people are forced to pick up the bill for the nuclear industry’s disasters.
The Fukushima disaster shows us that where money is involved, our government and power supplying corporations cannot be trusted. How then does South Africa with enormous existing socio economic problems expect not only to deal with development but also expect tax payers to pick up the tab from nuclear industry’s mess? Eskom is already in debt, do we think we can afford to have the same, or worse disaster happen here?
Are we really prepared to endanger the lives of millions when there are proven solutions to the energy crisis? Renewable energy projects in South Africa in the REIPPPP - Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme - have delivered on time and on budget, while helping to avoid catastrophic climate change and water shortages.
When solutions presented can encompass environmental concerns, job creation and sustainable energy and development, what use does South Africa have for the dated, dirty and needlessly expensive coal and nuclear energy?
What’s stopping us from doing the same when the potential for the use of renewable energy in South Africa is huge? Help us spread the word by posting and sharing messages with the hashtag #FukushimaDontForget