|Environmental movement in South Africa|
Koeberg Alert is an anti-nuclear activist organisation formed in 1983 as a local campaign against South Africa's nuclear programme, in particular the construction of Koeberg Nuclear Power Station. It is possibly the country's first activist green movement, apart from Nan Rice's Dolphin Action and Protection Group. For years it was allied to the broader democratic and anti-apartheid movement. It currently organises various anti-nuclear campaigns, as well as participates in the wider anti-war and peace movements.
It was revitalised in February 2010 when it engaged with the National Nuclear Regulator over a visit by the nuclear submarine HMS Sceptre. In March 2010, the Environmental Impact Assessment process for the Nuclear-1 build was reaching its final stages with the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Report and Koeberg Alert is at the time of writing conducting public meetings to raise awareness about this, and aims to prepare several detailed submissions.
Koeberg Alert is part of a global campaign against nuclear power and has established links with organisations such as Earthlife Africa, Campaign Against Nuclear Energy (CANE) and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Some notable people active in the organisation:
- Mike Kantey – former secretary
- Keith Gottschalk – long-standing member
- Peter Becker – re-formed organisation in 2010
- David Fig
- Andy Pienaar
History of the Koeberg NPP
In 1979, a US Vela satellite detected a flash of light in the south Atlantic. The evidence pointed to a nuclear bomb test by South Africa. The existence of several nuclear warheads by the white minority National Party government was denied until the 1990s.
19 December 1982 in a well-planned attack on the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station in Cape Town, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) causes heavy damage with no injuries reported.
During the UCT campus revolt in 1987, also called unrest by the apartheid regime, Farid Esack, Alan Boesak, Nosie Peterse and Mklulele George meet before students under the banner "Forward to a non-racist, non-sexist and nuclear-free continent."
On 26 February 1990, FW de Klerk issued orders to terminate the country's nuclear weapons programme, which until then had been a state secret. South Africa becomes the first country in the world to voluntary give-up its nuclear weapons programme.
In 1996, an accident at Pelindaba research facility results in the exposure of workers to radiation. Harold Daniels and several others die from cancers and radiation burns related to the exposure.
In 1997, workers are forced to clean up a nuclear waste spillage at Vaalputs. The contract workers hired to clean up defective nuclear waste containers in a trench are outsourced as a casual job, and are not provided with protective clothing.
In August 2002 Greenpeace the international environmental organisation, hung an anti-nuclear protest banner from the power plant, resulting in 12 members being arrested and fined. Koeberg Alert supports the non-violent and peaceful activity of organisations such as Greenpeace.
On 11 November 2005 the plant undergoes an emergency shut down following an incident related to power controls within the plant. The incident is thought to be to a routine SCRAM. Then on the evening of the 23 November 2005, a routine inspection of the backup safety system revealed a below-specification concentration of an important chemical, which had resulted in a controlled shutdown of the reactor. On Christmas Day 2005 an 8 cm (3 in) loose bolt finds its way into the rotor of Unit 1, causing damage to some of the 105 bars that line the device, and putting the generator out of action for three to nine months, depending on the availability of spares.
Koeberg Alert participates in a parliamentary portfolio committee inquiry into the Nuclear Industry, delivering submissions and hearing from widows and workers exposed to radiation during the 1996 Pelindaba accident. It is also revealed that routine emissions of radioactive isotopes such as strontium-90 and caesium-137 from Koeberg exceed European Safety guidelines. Allowable limits had to be raised to accommodate the plant. Strontium-90 is a by-product of nuclear fission which is found in nuclear fallout and presents a health problem since it substitutes for calcium in bone, preventing expulsion from the body. Caesium-137 because it is a long-lived high-energy beta emitter with a half-life of 30.17 years is one of the two principal medium-lived fission products, along with strontium-90, which are responsible for most of the radioactivity of spent nuclear fuel Caesium-137 beta decays to barium-137m (a short-lived nuclear isomer) then to nonradioactive barium-137, and is also a strong emitter of gamma radiation. Caesium-137 has a very low rate of neutron capture and cannot be feasibly disposed of, but must be allowed to decay. The committee is also told how both the Tweelopiespruit and Wonderfonteinspruit in the Krugersdorp-Randfontein area have been contaminated by uranium mine tailings caused by South Africa's nuclear and mining industry.
16 March 2009, a leak of radioactive gases from Pelindaba is reported by NECSA. Abnormal levels of gamma radiation associated with Xenon and Krypton gases are detected, causing an evacuation of staff and an emergency to be declared. Mike Kantey is forceably ejected from a "nuclear stakeholders meeting" in Cape Town.
September 2010, 91 workers at Koeberg were contaminated by Cobalt-58 (58
Co) isotope with a half-life of 70.86 days. Eskom announces a "review" of the situation which will "recommend further steps to avoid recurrence". Earlier the same month, Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan announced the ANC government decision to mothball the Pebble bed modular reactor project after more than 11 years of research. The cost to the taxpayer was R7.4bn.
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