Environmental watchdogs Greenpeace Africa and Earthlife Africa simulated a nuclear spill in front of the entrance to the department of environmental affairs in Pretoria yesterday in protest against the proposed construction of a new nuclear power station at Duynefontein, adjacent to Koeberg, in the Western Cape.
At dawn, activists unloaded barrels filled with smoke and simulated a nuclear disaster.
They hung a banner over the front wall of the entrance stating: “Stop Nuclear, Protect our Future.”
They called on Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa to withdraw the environmental authorisation for the construction of the nuclear power station, saying they would not leave until she complies with their demands.
Sabelo Malaza, chief director of integrated environmental authorisations, said staff and customers could not go into the building because of the blockage.
“They ought to have followed the processes and appealed directly and they could have avoided this disruption,” he added.
However, Greeenpeace Africa’s senior climate and energy campaign manager Melita Steele said that through the environmental impact assessment process, they had been engaging in formal processes to raise concerns with the department for the past five to six years.
“Unfortunately, we believe none of our concerns have been heard, which is illustrated by the authorisation itself. So we felt compelled to try to show the minister how important we believe it is that nuclear [power] does not go ahead in this country to protect our future,” Steele said.
The protest highlighted the view that nuclear power was dangerous and expensive and should not be under consideration in South Africa.
She added that Molewa has chosen to discard civil society’s input and follow the recommendations of a flawed environmental impact assessment report based on outdated and incomplete information and assumptions that were neither justified nor justifiable.
A detailed appeal would be submitted to the minister today and the activist organisations would consider the legal options, pending a decision on the appeal by the department.
The 30-day period for citizens to appeal the Duynefontein environmental authorisation ends today.