5 past 12 : Time for Belgium to phase out nuclear power
A delegation of the anti-nuclear group For Mother Earth was recieved at the Belgian parliament at "5 past 12" by a representative of the Belgian Council of Ministers. With a ticking clock as a gift, the environmentalists wanted to increase pressure as a final decision was expected here for a phase-out of nuclear power in Belgium. The controversial issue was tabled for the second time this week by State Secretary for Energy Olivier Deleuze (Green Party). The action was supported by the Belgian Coalition of environmental NGO's and Greenpeace amongst others.
According to environmental groups the phase out of nuclear power must be carried out urgently, because it has been "five past twelve" on this issue for a long time. The growing mountain of radioactive waste makes it clear that we must take urgent action considering the dramatic consequences of this cancer-industry for the future generations.
Nuclear waste, along with safety problems and the transfer of nuclear technology to the production of nuclear weapons, have proved for a long time that the wrong choices were made. Also, the uranium mining on lands of Indigenous Peoples around the world reveals the malicious character of the nuclear industry.
Belgium became an important nuclear player because the Belgian establishment supplied the military nuclear programme of the USA for many years, with uranium from the former Belgian Congo. In the 50's Belgium was rewarded with an American research reactor at Mol. Today, with 7 nuclear reactors, Belgium has become heavily dependent on this deadly source of power, providing 60% of its electricity.
This short-term thinking has led to a huge amount of highly radioactive waste, for which no lasting solution has been found. After more than 50 years, there is still no way of dealing with the nuclear waste that the Belgian nuclear power stations continue to produce. It remains a deadly legacy for the coming generations.
The safety of nuclear power plants continues to cause concern, with the most extreme example being the disaster at Chernobyl. The safety problems of Belgian nuclear power plants have been brought to light by the recent release of an internal report of Electrabel, the electricity utility. The report warned that two of the reactors at the Doel nuclear power plant would not withstand the impact of a small aircraft.
Internationally, enormous problems remain with the proliferation of nuclear weapons as nuclear materials and technologies are diverted from civilian to military use. Several countries have either tested nuclear weapons, or are capable of producing nuclear weapons after the Western nuclear industry supplied them with nuclear reactors. These countries include Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, Iraq and India.
Finally and often forgotten, is the impact on several indigenous nations, which are confronted with the consequences of uranium mining on their lands for nuclear power plants. The extraction and processing of uranium leaves behind enormous amounts of radioactive waste. This has serious consequences for the environment, and the health of those who live on the land. Water sources are poisoned, low level radioactive dust settles in the environment, creating health and genetic consequences for both humans and animals. Each year the nuclear power plants at Doel and Tihange use 110 barrels of enriched uranium. Belgium imports all of the uranium from abroad, with Canada, Gabon, Niger, Kazakhstan, South Africa and Australia being important suppliers.
The phase out of nuclear power must, of course, be combined with other measures. It is urgent that further work is done on investigating sources of renewable energy. There must be changes to the fiscal system so that the production of renewable energy is more attractive. Financial resources must be made available for research into renewable sources of energy.
Following the action, we received the news that the Council of Ministers came to a positive agreement. The nuclear plants will be closed when they reach the age of forty years. In practice this means that the first reactors will be closed in 2014, and the process will be complete by 2025.
"We shout with joy for the proposed nuclear phase out, although it comes far too late. Future generations will have to carry the consequences of nuclear power for many years. And each day that the production of nuclear power continues the irreversible side effects grow, for people and the environment," said a spokesperson of For Mother Earth.
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