Nuclear Action at the Colosseum in Rome

Four activists open a 300 square meter banner from the top of the Colosseum in Rome. The banner simply says: "ITALY, STOP NUCLEAR, VOTE YES". 95% of voters said "Yes" to a future without nuclear energy. © Francesco Alesi / Greenpeace

Led by Berlusconi, Italy can be a strange place. But amidst the madness comes a little sanity.

This week, Italians were asked to vote on the use of nuclear energy, and almost 95% were in favour of a nuclear-free future!

It's great news, and it gives me hope that South Africa will come to its senses and abandon its plans for nuclear expansion. For as strange as Italy may be, it's hard to beat our government's bizarre decision to build new nuclear reactors as the nuclear disaster in Japan continues to unfold.

25 years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and three months since crisis first began at Japan's Fukushima nuclear complex, Italy is now the third country (following Germany and Switzerland) to exclude nuclear power from their future energy sources. And in the case of Italy, the people's decision comes in the face of a government that has a strong grip on the media, and was openly in favour of nuclear energy...

People have the power!

Over the past two months Greenpeace and other civil society groups have made their voices heard in Italy, contributing to a democratic process that thrives in the presence of information and public decision-making. In the end, ordinary people exercised their democratic right, and chose to exclude the inherent dangers of nuclear power from their own future, and of generations to come.

It is interesting -- and very exciting -- to see how drastically Berlusconi completely changed his tune after the referendum. "We must probably say goodbye to the possibility of nuclear power stations and we must strongly commit ourselves to renewable energy," he said on Monday.

It's an inspiration for all of us. If we make our voices heard, President Zuma and the Minister of Energy, Dipuo Peters, must also change their nuclear tune. They must surely come to realise that nuclear energy is a dangerous and expensive distraction when it comes to developing our country’s energy supply. Why waste time and money on inherently dangerous energy when we could move straight on to a future powered by clean, safe and renewable sources of energy?

Nelson Mandela said "It always seems impossible until it's done." And we can do it! We can stop the nuclear insanity that so shockingly revealed itself in Japan.

We must stop South Africa from making the same mistakes.