3 August 2016
Press release: Commemoration of nuclear legacy
“Mr Molefe’s latest pronouncements that Eskom supports nuclear can only be viewed with deep concern. We do not need nuclear, and the cost, and legacy, of nuclear energy is something South Africa cannot afford” said SAFCEI’s spokesperson, Liziwe McDaid.
As we approach the anniversary of Hiroshima, SAFCEI reflects on the destructive nature of nuclear power, and on the 5th August we will light a candle and pray and meditate, in memory of those who have lost their health, livelihoods and lives, due to the nuclear industry.
SAFCEI is calling on people of faith throughout SADC to join us in a moment of silent thoughtfulness on 5th August, and for faith leaders to pause for reflection in their worship this weekend. On the 6th August 1945, the atomic bomb was unleashed on the people of Hiroshima, Japan – one of the worst moments in the history of nuclear technology. Within the first two to four months of the 1945 atomic bombings, the acute effects killed 90,000 to 166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000 to 80,000 in Nagasaki.
There have also been a number of nuclear accidents, and many more ‘close shaves’ since the inception of the nuclear energy programme. The ones that have hit the news have shown the world that despite attempts to ensure safeguards, nuclear disasters will occur and will cause substantial harm to the planet and its people. In Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine, nearly 5,000 cases of thyroid cancer have been diagnosed to date among children who were aged up to 18 years at the time of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Depleted uranium, a product of nucear energy production, and shown to cause DNA damage that can lead to lung cancer, was used during the wars in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq.
In Fukushima as of May 2016, a total of 92,600 people have been forced to evacuate from their homes, and their villages and lands rendered uninhabitable. According to the Japan Cabinet Office, suicides related to the disaster continue to increase, with 19 out of 24 deaths taking place in the Fukushima prefecture. After the nuclear disaster, the Catholic Bishops of Japan in assessing the pros and cons of nuclear energy stated:
“It [nuclear energy] has provided a totally new source of energy for humanity, but as we can see in the destruction of human life in a moment in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the disaster at Chernobyl and the life-threatening criticality accident at Tokaimura, it also has the potential to pass huge problems on to future generations. To use it effectively, we need the wisdom to know our limits and exercise the greatest care. In order to avoid tragedy, we must develop safe alternative means of producing energy” .
The Fukushima nuclear disaster exposed the idea of nuclear power being “safe” as myth and wishful thinking. People have put too much trust in science and technology, without having “the wisdom to know our limits”. The Catholic Bishops of Japan have called for the abolition of all nuclear plants in Japan.
As the South African government deliberates on the “scale and pace” of nuclear energy adoption in the country, SAFCEI’s Executive Director, Venerable Tsondru, says, “We are seeing that much of the world is moving away from nuclear energy. We call for our government leaders also to move away from these extremely expensive, outdated and dangerous nuclear energy technologies, and to embrace the affordable and safer alternatives of sun, water and wind power. In our prayers and meditations, we ask for rational and wise decision-making by our political leaders. Great humility is needed, for the decisions made now will impact on the people of Southern Africa and the world for many generations to come”.
Creator God, we are grateful for the precious gift of the beautiful web of all forms of life that are part of this planet. As we reflect on the damage that nuclear energy has had on the earth, we ask that our actions cease to cause radiation, and that we act to restore the clean air and the waters that flow through our oceans and rivers. We pray for the workers that continue to clean up the site of the 2011 Fukushima Nuclear disaster, and we pray for the fishers whose livelihoods depend on the health of the fish along the coast.
As the South African government contemplates the building of new nuclear reactors, we ask that our political leaders be granted the wisdom and humility in their decision-making, understanding that their choices will impact on the health and well-being of all life in Southern Africa for generations to come.
For more information contact Liz McDaid: firstname.lastname@example.org
 “Reverence for Life –A Message for the Twenty-First Century from the Catholic Bishops of Japan”