Monday 11 April 2011
By Cynthia Dreyer
If the disaster management control at Pelindaba is as tardy as the response to the concern of our readers and ourselves, Gawd help us. MadibengPulse first sent an email on 14 March asking for answers to what disaster measures were in place should an emergency at Pelindaba arise, and how they would communicate with the public to take protective measures. This was done when there was worldwide concern about the hazards of nuclear power and when a sophisticated nuclear country such as Japan were caught unawares (despite years of warnings – comment).
Our email asked for “an urgent response”
In a reply received only on 31 March, a communications spokesperson for NECSA Ms Chantal Janneker says they received our questions on Wednesday 16 March, whereas we sent the first request on Monday 14 March to Ms Shaun Chetty. That it took two days to get to the relevant person is not our concern. The only communication we received was on 17 March and was a general statement issued regarding the Fukushima disaster released by the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa. What is of extreme concern is that it took two weeks to get a reply out of Necsa regarding local disaster management. Necsa spokesperson Ms Chantal Janneker says we did not indicate that we needed an immediate reply, but quotes our email which states: “An urgent response is required. Thank you”! More than 24 hours would have elapsed before publication of the 17 March edition, but no attempt was made to reply or to acknowledge our request in what should have been merely a “cut and paste” ready response for all media, immediately available.
According to our distribution records, our article on 17 March was read by various staff members at Necsa, including Mr Eliott Mulane who forwarded us the reply quoted below, but only on 31 March! The follow up article on 21 March was read by more members of Necsa including Ms Shaun Chetty, but still no answer was forthcoming. If this is how Necsa views its responsibilities as custodians of the most dangerous substances on earth, we can all sit with our heads between our knees and kiss…. goodbye!
After two weeks, the following is the reply received form NECSA:
“Necsa has a comprehensive Emergency Plan for on site emergencies and a combined on site plan which involves the Madibeng and Tshwane disaster Management Organizations. These plans are approved by the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR). “The emergency plan requires a demonstrated ability by Necsa to alert residents living in the 5 kilometer formal emergency planning zone. (At Fukushima all residents were evacuated in a 20 kilometre radius zone – Editor) Necsa carries out routine exercises to ensure this and will utilise an auto dial system, ground shout and radio stations to alert the public of an emergency. Initial public alert must be achieved within time frames from 5 minutes to 1 hour depending on the emergency scenario. “Pamphlets and calendars distributed by Necsa on an annual basis are used to inform the public to go indoors and tune in to a local radio station. (We live in full view of Necsa but have in the 30 years of living here, never received any “pamphlet or calendar” from Necsa, nor would we know which local radio station to tune in to – CD.) Both Jacaranda FM and Motsweding FM have agreed to assist Necsa with emergency announcements. “The radio stations will broadcast emergency messages provided by Necsa on the emergency situation and request residents to perform required appropriate protective actions. “The Emergency Plan is not generally available to the public since it is a comprehensive and technical operating plan that is constantly being updated and tested in regular emergency drills that involve the Madibeng and Tshwane Disaster Management Organizations and which are closely supervised by the National Nuclear Regulator and the Department of Energy. “This plan is however regularly communicated and discussed in the quarterly Public Safety Information Forums to which the general public in the 5 km Necsa exclusion zone is always invited including your own newspaper and concerned organisations such as that headed by Ms Dominique Gilbert .These meetings are monitored and attended by the NNR and the Department of Energy. “In the spirit of fairness, transparency and the right to hold a different opinion, we would appreciate it if you would publish our comment and concern in an equitable manner.”
Comment (Madibeng Pulse):
Having had a home in Hartbeespoort for thirty years this month, this is the first we have heard of Necsa’s plans for an emergency, The already existing Hartbeespoort Community Policing Forums and neighbourhood watches may be good forums for a start where affected communities can have their concerns aired and questions answered. Communication networks via radio and sms already exist to various members and could be used for instant messages. The Disaster Management from Madibeng, though invited to every meeting of the Community Policing Forum, have never attended. This is another avenue of communication with the public which could be explored by Necsa – Cynthia Dreyer.
Comment (Pelindaba Working Group):
Necsa and the NNR have shown complete disregard for public and environmental safety for years and, at best, merely adhere to the bare minimum as laid down by Acts that control them. Common sense and experience tells us the 5km zone is mere tokenism and that radiation will not be contained within the barbed wire fencing around Pelindaba’s nuclear farm. Truth of the matter, as was evidenced at a PSIF meeting over this issue, is that they do not want to extend the evacuation zone as it may mean residents from neighbouring Atteridgeville township would also be included and potentially elected to chair their white-wash forums. It was actually stated at one such meeting (at the time the plight of nuked ex-Necsa workers from Atteridgeville were making headlines during their failed quest for medical compensation) that “we don’t want busloads from Atteridgeville”. Moreover, the more people become aware of the need for an evacuation plan in the general area, the more people may actually begin to take notice and want Necsa out of the area. That we occasionally attend these PSIF meetings is often used by Necsa for its own propaganda purposes but should NOT be construed as our condoning or accepting what they claim.
It is high time questions are raised over the legitimacy of the nuclear complex in the area – an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was NEVER conducted before they began to nuke the place – and subsequent EIAs have largely traded on the fact that there already exists a radioactive footprint, so let’s add to it… All scientific evidence points to this situation becoming more and more dangerous as radiation and chemical footprints accumulate on site.
Pelindaba is NOT prepared for a disaster and nor are residents.
Hardly anyone has ever heard of an evacuation plan let alone take part in such. At least one radio station mentioned above was also unaware that it had a role to play!
We used to hear alarms go off frequently at Pelindaba only to discover they were experiencing emergency situations which they later denied would impact anyone outside their fences. Lists of questions over these incidents have remained unanswered but international experts have replied and warned us we should not rest assured. When people started becoming concerned, the alarms went silent (except for the ones they said “must have come from elsewhere”).
The third party insurance and nuclear liabilities from the nuclear industry in this country are also virtually non-existent. Most insurance policies also emphatically exclude nuclear liability. Repeated attempts over many years – including a Promotion of Information Act (PAIA) application to elicit information and to raise concern over this issue has been completely ignored.
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