Nuke waste a long-term problem
IN THE article “No gold at the end of nuclear rainbow” (Weekend Argus December 4), Energy Minister Dipuo Peters was reported as supporting nuclear power as a solution to South Africa’s supposed base load problem.
However his department was also reported as saying: “There’s no endpoint decided, as yet, for high-level nuclear waste.”
I understand that Koeberg’s highlevel waste is stored on site in two fuel pools, and that 32 tons is generated annually, meaning that between 800 and 850 tons is now on site.
While the radioactivity on a portion of this waste decays in 1 000 years, the isotopes of uranium and plutonium require 10 000 , which, to put it in perspective, is about the same length of time from the building of the first known human city at Jericho until now.
During this time, the residual heat from the spent fuel rods will need to be removed. In 2000 it appears that there was not enough space left in the fuel pools and spent fuel rods were placed in special containers made of cast iron each weighing over 97 tons and having walls 358mm thick.
The space problem was eventually solved by installing high density racks in the fuel pools, which had not been part of the original design. So how much space is now left in the fuel pools?
As far as the on-site safety at Koe- berg is concerned, I wonder if Minister Peters is aware of that happened to Andries Swart and Ron Lockwood and that 91 employees were found to have been contaminated with cobalt 58 in late September this year?
Does Minister Peters really have the right to make selfish decisions that will burden future generations with looking after our extremely dangerous radioactive waste?
I think South Africa should follow the lead of Australia and New Zealand and have nothing to do with nuclear power. Then, at least, we will not be putting our descendants at risk.