Thursday, 4 December 2014

Ghanaian Officialdom Must Not Gloss Over Inherent Dangers Of Nuclear Power Plants In A Dysfunctional System

The fact that those who have the power to implement it, are still determined to go ahead with plans to build a nuclear power plant in Ghana, is profoundly depressing. Even at this stage, it is alarming that officials are already resorting to secrecy.

A senior public official, Professor Thomas Akabsaa, apparently refused to divulge the exact locations of the three possible sites out of which one would be earmarked for the construction of the proposed nuclear power plant, for "security" reasons. Could the real reason be fear of public demonstrations by concerned groups?

Yet it is crucial that there is transparency in all aspects of this controversial subject - as a Nuclear Energy Planning and Implementation Organisation has been established and a Nuclear Regulatory Authority Bill put before Parliament. The public needs to know about the activities of public officials in the nuclear sector - and hold them to account.

With the kind of maintenance culture that results in even relatively simple infrastructure like bridges and roads seldom being inspected, for instance, how can we be sure that radioactive waste from the nuclear power plant, which will remain dangerous for thousands of years, will be securely and safely stored?

And if radioactive waste from the proposed nuclear power plant will remain dangerous for thousands of years, don't those who will live in the area the nuclear waste will be stored have a right be told of the implications of living near a radioactive nuclear waste storage facility, and to decide whether or not to accept its construction in their area? Does their welfare not matter?

What moral right do public officials have to disregard public opinion and embark on a project from which it will be near-impossible to reverse if its inherent dangers become apparent to ordinary people for some reason,  and society then decides that it was a bad decision to embark on the project in the first place, and that the nuclear power plant ought to be shut down permanently? Where will the hundreds of billions of Ghana cedis come from to decommission it?

 Above all, in a nation in which theft of public money is so widespread that there is always a shortage of money to keep the system functioning efficiently, where will the money come from to deal with accidents at the nuclear power plant - particularly one on the scale of the Fukushima nuclear disaster?

 Surely, no public official in Ghana thinks we will be able to borrow money to fix an apocalyptic disaster that will have to be dealt with immediately? Who will lend Ghana the billions of dollars required to ameliorate such a situation - were disaster to strike as a result of an earthquake, for example?

With respect, a society that cannot even manage the collection and disposal of household and industrial waste efficiently, must not rush into building a nuclear power plant, which will generate radioactive waste for thousands of years.

There must not be any secrecy where this subject is concerned - and public opinion against the building of a nuclear power plant in a nation with such a dysfunctional system must not be ignored by officialdom.

In the end, this project could very well turn out to be a road to a hell-on-earth in Ghana, which was paved with the good intentions of overeager officials, who only saw the positive side of an idea and glossed over its inherent dangers.

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