The environmental activist organisation Earthlife Africa lost a court action against South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) to stop the construction and use of a small nuclear waste smelter.
The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria’s Judge Pierre Rabie dismissed Earthlife Africa’s application to set aside the authorisation for Necsa to operate the smelter. Judge Rabie awarded costs against Earthlife Africa.
The chairman of Necsa, Dr. Kelvin Kemm, said he is pleased at the outcome and that Necsa has highly competent and responsible nuclear scientists and engineers who would not engage in irresponsible behaviour. A Necsa spokesperson further explained that for such a smelter, according to stringent nuclear handling protocols, various items such as pipes and metal fittings, which have been used in a nuclear process, have to be cleaned, checked for residual radiation and then safely stored.
At Necsa, such metal components are subjected to a thorough chemical cleaning process to remove radioactive dust, sludge or other contaminant. This is all carried out within a sealed environment. However due to sharp angles in the metal such as screw threads and machined grooves, the chemical cleaning cannot remove 100% of potential radioactive contaminant. The waste pipes and fittings were then stored in a secure area, after chemical cleaning. Such metal parts, collected over many years, were filling up the storage area.
Necsa decided that to reduce the space occupied by these pipes and parts, to allow for more storage space, it would be a good idea to melt the waste components down to solid blocks of metal. A sophisticated smelting system was designed. This system melts the metal and removes 98% of any Uranium which may still remain on the metal.
The resulting cast blocks of metal exhibit so little radiation that, the radiation is less than the radiation found in natural rocks that you would find in areas containing granite.
Nevertheless these blocks of metal are stored at Necsa, as is any recovered uranium or other material, therefore there are no escapes to the environment.
Contact Nikelwa Tengimfene, Tel 012 305-5458, Nikelwa.Tengimfene@necsa.co.za
Source: EE plublishers