Chernobyl : x’tgħallimna wara 30 sena?

ostrich

Tletin sena ilu bħal għada s-26 t’April 1986 kien sploda r-reattur nuklejari ta’ Chernobyl. X’tgħallimna?

L-isplużjoni ikkontaminat 40% tat-teritorju Ewropew. Mhux bl-istess mod.

Fi Sqallija, per eżempju, hekk kif sar magħruf x’kien ġara [għax ma kienx magħruf mill-ewwel] in-nies kienu ngħataw il-parir biex jaħslu sewwa l-ħxejjex u l-frott. Dan minħabba li bl-effett tar-rih kien hemm il-biża’ li materjal radjuattiv seta jiddepożita ruħu fuq il-ħxejjex u l–frott.

F’Malta ma niftakarx li kien hawn xi twissija ta’ dik ix-xorta. Kien qiesu ma ġara xejn.

Illum wara tletin sena nistaqsu jekk il-pajjiż huwiex mgħammar biex jinduna jekk inċident nuklejari li jkun seħħ, il-bogħod jew fil-viċin huwiex ta’ theddida għal saħħitna. X’miżuri ittieħdu? Tgħallimna xi ħaġa wara tletin sena?

Fis-snin li ġejjin ser ikollna diversi impjanti nuklejari viċin tagħna: fit-Tunisia, fl-Alġerija u fl-Eġittu b’mod partikolari. Possibilment ukoll fil-Marokk. Jidher li ħlisna mill-periklu wara l-bieb għax il-ftehim bejn il-Libja u Franza dwar impjant nuklejari biex jikkonverti l-ilma baħar f’ilma tajjeb għax-xorb ma laħaqx implimentat. Konna iffurtunati dwar dan kieku ma nafx x’seta inqala’ waqt il-gwerra ċivili li issa ilha ftit għaddejja fil-Libja.

Dwar il-ħtieġa li l-Gvern Malti jqajjem il-kwistjoni mal-Gvern Libjan kienet Alternattiva Demokratika biss li kienet tkellmet għax kemm il-Partit Nazzjonalista kif ukoll il-Partit Laburista kienu waqgħu fil-muta.

Kellna biss gazzetta Taljana (Il Sole 24 Ore: artiklu ta’ Federico Rendina intitolat Il Governo rilancia sull’atomo) li kienet qalet li l-Prim Ministru Taljan Silvio Berlusconi kien iddiskuta l-kostruzzjoni ta’ impjant nuklejari f’Malta mal-Prim Ministru Gonzi. Il-Gvern Malti kien ċaħad li qatt saret id-diskussjoni.

Nittama li wara tletin sena tgħallimna xi ħaga. Tgħid?

Linking energy and democracy

 
The Times Logo
Saturday, June 18, 2011 ,
by

Carmel Cacopardo

 

Last weekend, Italian voters said no to nuclear energy for the second time since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 25 years ago.

Italy is not alone in refusing to handle nuclear energy. The Fukushima incidents have driven home the point that, even in a country that is very strict on safety standards, nuclear energy is not safe. Fukushima has proven that no amount of safeguards can render nuclear energy 100 per cent safe. Though accidents are bound to happen irrespective of the technology used, the risks associated with nuclear technology are such that they can easily wipe out life from the affected area in a very short time.

Last weekend’s no has a particular significance for Malta as this means an end to plans for the construction of a nuclear power plant at Palma di Montechiaro on Sicily’s southern coast, less than 100 kilometres from the Maltese islands.

Germany’s Christian Democrat/Liberal coalition government, faced with the resounding victory of the Greens in the Länd of Baden-Württemberg, has made a policy U-turn. As a direct effect of the Greens-led opposition to Germany’s nuclear programme, Germany will be nuclear-energy free as from 2022, by which date all existing nuclear power installations will be phased out. In doing so, the Merkel government has, once and for all, accepted the Green-Red coalition agreement on a complete nuclear phaseout.

Even Switzerland is planning not to make use of its existing nuclear plants beyond their scheduled projected life. The Swiss government will be submitting to Parliament a proposal not to replace existing nuclear plants. The process is scheduled to commence in 2019 and will conclude with the closure of the last Swiss nuclear reactor in 2034.

After the Tunisian revolution, Abdelkader Zitouni, the leader of Tunisie Verte, the Tunisian Green party, has called on Tunisia’s transitional government to repudiate the Franco-Tunisian agreement for the provision of nuclear technology by France. Hopefully, the same will happen when the Administration of Libya is back to normal.

There are other Mediterranean neighbours that are interested in the construction of nuclear plants. Libya and Tunisia were joined by Algeria, Morocco and Egypt in reacting positively to Nicolas Sarkozy, the peripatetic nuclear salesman during the past four years.

Malta could do without nuclear energy installations on its doorstep. Italy’s decision and the policy being advocated by Mr Zitouni are a welcome start. It would be wishful thinking to imagine Foreign Minister Tonio Borg taking the initiative in campaigning for a Mediterranean free of nuclear energy even though this is in Malta’s interest.

It is a very healthy sign that Malta’s neighbours together with Germany and Switzerland are repudiating the use of nuclear energy. Their no to nuclear energy is simultaneously a yes to renewable energy. This will necessarily lead to more efforts, research and investment in renewable energy generation as it is the only reasonable way to make up for the shortfall between energy supply and demand.

A case in point is the Desertec project, which is still in its infancy. The Desertec initiative is based on the basic fact that six hours of solar energy incident on the world’s deserts exceeds the amount of energy used all over the globe in one whole year. Given that more than 90 per cent of the world’s population lives within 3,000 kilometres of a desert, the Desertec initiative considers that most of the world’s energy needs can be economically met through tapping the solar energy that can be captured from the surface of the deserts.

The technology is available and has been extensively tested in the Mojave Desert, California, in Alvarado (Badajoz), Spain and in the Negev Desert in Israel where new plants generating solar energy on a large scale have been in operation for some time. The Desertec project envisages that Europe’s energy needs can be met through tapping the solar energy incident on the Sahara desert. The problems that have to be surmounted are of a technical and of a geopolitical nature.

On the technical front, solutions are being developed to address more efficient storage and the efficient transmission of the electricity generated.

The Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt and, hopefully, the successful conclusion of the Libyan revolution will address the other major concern: that of energy security. The movement towards democracy in North Africa can contribute towards the early success of the Desertec project in tapping solar energy in the Sahara desert for use in both Northern Africa and in Europe.

While Malta stands to gain economically and environmentally through the realisation of such a project, I have yet to hear the government’s enthusiasm and commitment even if the project is still in its initial stages.

Malta is committed in favour of the pro-democracy movements in Egypt, Tunisia and Benghazi. Being surrounded by democratic neighbours is a definitely positive geopolitical development. If properly nurtured, this would enhance Malta’s economic development, energy security and environmental protection concerns.

Danger …………….. on our doorstep

published in Environment Supplement

Sunday April 17, 2011

 

Less than 100 kilometres to Malta’s North West Silvio Berlusconi’s Government wants to construct a nuclear reactor. It is to be constructed on Sicily’s southern coast in the vicinity of the locality of Palma di Montechiaro. This nuclear reactor is one of  a number of reactors which Berlusconi’s government plans to be constructed on Italian territory: one in Sicily, one in Sardegna, five in the North, three in the Central area and two in Southern Italy.

This is a political decision that the Italian Government took in summer of 2008 as a result of which it reversed the decision taken at a 1987 referendum when on the morrow of the Chernobyl disaster Italians overwhelmingly rejected nuclear energy.

On the 11 and12 June 2011 Italians will be called to the polls once more in a second attempt to reject nuclear energy, this time on the morrow of another nuclear disaster : that at Fukushima. It is a referendum which seeks to reverse Berlusconi’s nuclear policy.

The Chernobyl disaster which affected 40% of European territory was way back in 1986 shrugged off as being the result of human error as well as outdated Soviet technology. The same cannot be said of the Japanese.

EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger is on record stating that Fukushima has caused him to start doubting nuclear energy. Oettinger, former Prim Minister of the German State of Baden-Württemberg, in an interview with Der Spiegel International which was published on April 4, 2011 stated “I have nothing but respect for Japan’s abilities when it comes to industry and technology. That’s why Fukushima has been such a turning point for me. It has made me start to doubt. If the Japanese cannot master this technology, then nuclear energy conceals risks that I didn’t see before.”

All over the world countries are having second thoughts on whether to keep making use of nuclear energy. German voters in the states of Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland Palatinate took the lead by flocking in their thousands in support of the Greens earlier this month, as a result delivering a clear message to Angela Merkel’s CDU. The CDU lost control of the state of Baden-Württemberg for the first time. Moreover the Greens being the leading party in the state coalition will now provide the first ever Green Prime Minister of the state of Baden-Württemberg. The Green-Red coalition in Rhineland Palatinate has been reinforced by the Green gains at the polls.

The nuclear power station which Berlusconi’s government is projecting in Palma di Montechiaro is to be sited in an area which has a seismic history. The earthquake of 1693 not only completely destroyed South Eastern Sicily but also caused considerable damage in the Maltese islands. One could say that this was a long time ago but then can anyone guarantee that there would not be a repeat ?  The opposite seems to be quite probable.

On Monday Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore carried a report on Japanese geologist Dr Masanobu Shishikura who way back in August 2010 had concluded that the Fukushima area had already experienced a number of earthquakes and tsunamis in the past. He identified a possible cycle and concluded  last August that it was not to be excluded that in the near future a repetition was due.    

A nuclear accident just 100 km North of the Maltese islands is certainly not something anyone would wish for. Hopefully it would never happen. But if a nuclear power station were to be sited at Palma di Montechiaro it would be a possibility depending on the movement of the geological plates. No one will give us the date when this will happen. Hence it stands to reason that constructing a nuclear power station on such a site is a very risky business. Italian planners consider that it is a reasonable risk as providing electricity is in their view more important than the risk which the whole of the central Mediterranean would be subjected to.  

In view of what happened at Fukushima no one can say that he is not aware of the consequences. A consideration which, I do not doubt will weigh heavily on the minds of Italian voters when they cast their ballot next June rejecting nuclear energy one more time.

Risk and use of nuclear energy

 

published Saturday April 16, 2011

 

The Fukushima nuc­lear disaster occur­red as a result of the tsunami. The earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale did not cause any direct damage to the nuclear installation.

The Fukushima nuclear reactor was (according to various reports) designed after taking into consideration the frequency and strength of earthquakes and tsunamis in the region. The strength of the earthquake and the impacts of the tsunami were substantially more than what was taken into consideration at the drawing board. The point at issue is whether, in view of the possible (and eventual) impacts resulting from a failure of the reactor’s cooling systems, the risk taken as a result of the design assumptions was justified.

After the Fukushima happenings, German Chancellor Angela Merkel changed her opinion on nuclear energy turning around 180 degrees in the space of a few months.

The European Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger, former CDU Minister President of the German land of Baden-Württemberg, stated in an interview with Der Spiegel International that “Fukushima has made me start to doubt”.  He added: “when Chernobyl happened, we in the west were comforted by the fact that it was the result of outdated Soviet technology and human error. But I have nothing but respect for Japan’s abilities when it comes to industry and technology. That’s why Fukushima has been such a turning point for me. It has made me start to doubt. If the Japanese cannot master this technology, then nuclear energy conceals risks I didn’t see before.”

That says it all. The Fukushima nuclear incident is the direct result of the “risk society”, which acts on the basis of the probability of a particular event happening.

Notwithstanding advances in technology and human knowledge, there will always be an unresolved element of risk when adopting technological solutions to cater for human needs. The risk can be reduced but it will never be eliminated. As Dr Oettinger himself states, at the end of the day, in the case of a nuclear power plant, faced with the residual risk, “either you accept this residual risk or you shut down”.

To date, various governments took the risk. After Fukushima, a number are coming to their senses and are adopting the option to shut down. After the recent thrashing at the polls, Chancellor Merkel’s CDU too has changed course and has reluctantly started moving towards adopting a “green” nuclear policy!

There have been four major nuclear disasters since the late 1950s. The first took place in Windscale UK in 1957; the second at Harrisburg US (Three Mile Island) in 1979; the third occurred at Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986 and Fukushima was the fourth.

In addition to the above, there have been a countless number of other “small” incidents and a number of near misses. In France alone there are about 700 minor incidents every year, most of which go unreported.

Kenzaburo Oe is a Japanese Nobel Laureate having received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. In an essay published in the New Yorker on March 28, entitled Tokyo Postcard. History Repeats, he states that the use of nuclear energy in Japan is a betrayal of the Hiroshima victims.

He says: “Like earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural calamities, the experience of Hiroshima should be etched into human memory: it was even more dramatic a catastrophe than those natural disasters precisely because it was man-made. To repeat the error by exhibiting, through the construction of nuclear reactors, the same disrespect for human life is the worst possible betrayal of the memory of Hiroshima’s victims.”

Nuclear technology disrespects life as it has been shown time and again not only to be unsafe to use but also that it places whole regions and eco-systems at risk.

While, later this month, the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster will be commemorated it is pertinent to ask whether any lessons have been learnt. Chernobyl was considered as being an exception easily explained by the then Soviet Union’s state of technological development. Fuku­shima is a different kettle of fish: Japanese precision and technological knowledge is second to none.

The question, however, remains that, at the end of the day, some event that has not been given sufficient weight in design considerations happens. Be it the earthquake’s strength, a tsunami’s force or the frequency of adverse weather conditions. Engineering ethics permit this as it is accepted practice that one cannot design for all eventualities.

This is the risk society that plays games with our lives. The risk society does not consider life as being sufficiently worthy of protection. It only weighs probabilities and projects these into costs.

In this scheme of things life is worthless, hence, the validity of the observation of Kenzaburo Oe that the use of nuclear energy disrespects human life and is possibly its worst betrayal.

Nuclear energy? No thanks!

Nuclear myth and Malta’s neighbours

 

 

 

published on Saturday March 26, 2011

 

April 26 marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuc­lear disaster, which affected 40 per cent of European territory.

Sicilians (but not the Maltese) were then advised on precautions to be observed in order to avoid the effects of airborne radioactive contamination on agricultural produce. In the UK, until very recently, a number of farms were still under observation after having been contaminated through airborne radioactive caesium in 1986. Wild boar hunted in Germany’s forests cannot be consumed. Its food-chain is still contaminated with radioactive caesium, which was dispersed all over Europe as a result of the Chernobyl disaster.

The Fukushima disaster has occurred in efficient and safety-conscious Japan.

Nature has taken over, confirming its supremacy over the risk society; confirming that even the smallest risk is unacceptable in nuclear projects as this exposes nations, ecosystems, economies and whole regions to large-scale disasters.

The myth that nuclear technology is safe has been shattered once more at Fukushima.

In addition to the disasters at Three Mile Island (1979) and Chernobyl (1986), there were also a number of near misses such as that on June 4, 2008 in Krško on the Slovenia/Croatia border. In Krško, leaking coolant water was minutes away from causing a meltdown of the nuclear installation. The leakages of coolant water from nuclear plants in the Tricastin region in France in July 2008 are also of particular significance.

Malta is faced with plans by Italy, Libya, Tunisia and others to generate nuclear energy.

Libya has agreed with France to be provided with a nuclear plant along its coast to carry out seawater desalination. Fortunately, this agreement has so far not materialised. One shudders just thinking on the possibilities which access to nuclear technology in the civil war on Libyan soil could lead to.

The Berlusconi government, ignoring the result of a 1987 Italian referendum, has embarked on a nuclear programme that could lead to the construction and operation of a number of nuclear installations on Italian soil. One of these will be sited in Sicily.

The locality of Palma di Montechiaro has been mentioned as the preferred site although an area near Ragusa is also under consideration. Both Palma di Montechiaro and Ragusa are situated along Sicily’s southern coast and are too close to Malta for comfort. A serious accident there could have an immediate effect on Malta. Moreover, this is the area which was most affected by a 1693 earthquake that caused considerable damage in both Ragusa and Malta.

This contrasts with the declaration last week by Abdelkater Zitouni, leader of Tunisie Verte, the Tunisian Green party, who has called on Tunisia’s transitional government to abandon the 2020 project of a nuclear plant in Tunisia.

What is the Maltese government doing on the matter?

There is no information in the public domain except an article published in Il Sole 24 Ore on July 26, 2008 authored by Federico Rendina and entitled Il Governo Rilancia Sull’Atomo. In a kite-flying exercise during an official visit to Rome by a Maltese delegation, Mr Rendina speculated on the possibilities of placing nuclear reactors for Italy’s use on territories just outside Italian jurisdiction. Malta, Montenegro and Albania were mentioned in this respect. It was unfortunate that the Maltese government only spoke up after being prodded by the Greens in Malta. It had then stated that no discussions on the matter had taken place with the Italian government.

On behalf of the Greens in Malta, since 2008 I have repeatedly insisted on the need to make use of the provisions of the Espoo Convention, which deals with consultation procedures to be followed between countries in Europe whenever issues of transboundary impacts arise. On March 3, 2010 Parliament in Malta approved a resolution to ratify this convention.

The Espoo Convention, the EU Directive on Environmental Impact Assessment and the EU Strategic Environment Assessment Directive establish the right of the Maltese public to be consulted by Italy in the procedures leading to the construction of a nuclear power station, both on the Italian mainland as well as in Sicily. This is definitely not enough.

Various countries are reconsidering their position on nuclear energy as a result of the Fukushima disaster. Italy’s government has started to feel the pressure ahead of a June anti-nuclear referendum championed by Antonio di Pietro and earlier this week temporarily suspended its nuclear programme.

Italy is a region which is seismically active. The devastation caused by the 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila is still imprinted in our memories. The 1908 earthquake at Messina/Reggio Calabria was much worse, the worst ever in Europe. It produced an estimated 13-metre tsunami wave in the central Mediterranean. In Messina alone, over 120,000 lost their lives.

Faced with government silence, I think the matter should be taken up by Maltese environmental NGOs in partnership with their Italian counterparts. Public opinion needs to be sensitised on the dangers that lie ahead as Fukushima is a warning we cannot afford to ignore. 

other posts on Nuclear Issues on this blog

Japan tragedy is an eye opener on nuclear energy – AD

 

 

The crippling of a number of nuclear facilities in Japan as a result of the mega-earthquake and subsequent tsunami should be an eye-opener for those who still advocate the use of nuclear energy.

Carmel Cacopardo AD Spokesman on Sustainable Development and Local Government stated that on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, (which occurred on the 26th April 1986) the myths on the safety of nuclear energy have been shattered once and for all.

As a result of the Japanese nuclear crisis and in particular after various explosions in the Fukushima nuclear power station various European governments have decided to revise their use of nuclear energy. In Germany as a result of the continuous campaigning of the Greens  German Chancellor Angel Merkel has decided to re-examine plans to extend the life of Germany’s 17 existing nuclear power stations and announced the temporary closure of its two oldest ones. Switzerland has likewise announced putting on hold plans its plans for new nuclear power stations whilst  Austrian Minister for the Environment has called for checks on the safety of nuclear facilities. 

In the light of the above Carmel Cacopardo added that “it is very fortunate that the agreement between Nicolas Sarkozy on behalf of the French Republic and Colonel  Gaddafi on the supply by France to Libya of  nuclear technology to be used for the desalinisation of water along Libya’s Mediterranean coast  has not to date materialised. In the ongoing civil war in Libya access to and misuse of nuclear material would be an added worry.”

Prof. Arnold Cassola, AD Spokesperson on EU and International Affairs, stated; “The Maltese Government should take note of the statement of  Italian Minister Romani who has affirmed that, despite the catastrophe in Japan, Italy will not go back on its nuclear programme. The Maltese Government should take the necessary steps at EU level to ensure that the Berlusconi government through its construction of a nuclear facility in Sicily does not put the safety of all the people living in the central Mediterranean region at risk.” .”

Michael Briguglio, AD Chairperson, said: ‘The Japanese tragedy confirms that we are living in a global society of man-made risks, as is the case with nuclear energy. Such energy might solve short and medium term problems related to demand for energy, but is ultimately unsustainable because of the dangers it presents, and because global supply of uranium – its basic raw material, is limited., while the long term storage of the highly radioactive nuclear waste remains a major source of concern .  Global subsidies towards nuclear energy should be progressively diverted towards clean alternative energy such as solar and wind energy. Such energy has unlimited supply, is totally safe and does not contribute towards climate change’.

Kemm ser idumu jħawdu ?

 

Gordon Brown u Nicolas Sarkozy determinati u konvinti li m’hawnx aħjar mill-enerġija nukleari. Għax taqta’ d-dipendenza fuq iż-żejt u hi carbon free.  Ma jgħidux kemm hi kbira l-ispiża għall-ħażna tal-iskart nukleari u l-anqas ma jitkellmu dwar ir-riskju kontinwu ta’ inċident li jista’ joħloq ħerba għal distanza twila kif ġara bl-inċident ta’ Chernobyl 22 sena ilu.

Magħhom żdied Silvio Berlusconi li jrid iwarrab il-konklużjoni tar-referendum fl-Italja kontra l-użu tal-enerġija nukleari tat-8 ta’ Novembru 1987.

 

impjant fi Spanja li jiġġenera l-elettriku mix-xemx

 

 

 

Malta trid tingħaqad mal-grid Ewropew biex tassigura ruħha minn provista’ ta’ enerġija. Donnu l-Gvern Malti ma jafx x’inhu jiġri, għax filwaqt li l-Gvern Malti qed ihares lejn it-tramuntana għall-enerġija, l-Unjoni Ewropea qed tħares lejn in-nofsinnhar. Lejn enerġija ġġenerata mix-xemx fid-deżert Sahara li tista’ tissodisfa l-ħtieġijiet tal-enerġija tal-Ewropa kollha !

U aħna qegħdin fin-nofs u ma niċċaqalqux.

0.3% tad-dawl tax-xemx fuq id-deżert Sahara jista’ jissuplixxi l-enerġija kollha meħtieġa mill-Ewropa !

Pajjiżi oħra investew bil-kbir fil-ġenerazzjoni ta’ enerġija mix-xemx u l-Gvern ta’ Malta kull ma jaf jagħmel hu jeqred li din tiswa ħafna flus. Qatt ma qal kemm tiswa jekk jibqa’ ma jagħmel xejn, jew jekk jibqa’ jkaxkar saqajh !

Ara ukoll artiklu fil-Guardian tat-23 ta’ Lulju 2008 intitolat Solar power from Saharan Sun could provide Europe’s electricity, says EU .

A Nuclear Sandwich in the Mediterranean

published on Sunday 15 June 2008

by Carmel Cacopardo

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

 Last week, two nuclear powers stations in the EU were the subject of safety scares. On Tuesday 3 June at 9.30am local time, in the Dukovany nuclear plant in the Czech Republic, an employee accidentally turned off the coolant pipes and its four reactors were automatically switched off. On Wednesday 4 June in Krško, Slovenia, on the border with Croatia, a water leak from the coolant system of the nuclear plant occurred in the afternoon. The nuclear facility shut down.

These are the most recent of the nuclear accidents and incidents occurring in Europe.

Safety mechanisms are intended to identify and correct failures as soon as they occur. However, when safety mechanisms in nuclear plants fail, leading to a complete breakdown (what is known as a meltdown), issues of transboundary effects of such failure come into play. In view of the fact that we never know whether intended safety mechanisms will function or not, the siting of nuclear power plants will always lead to the assessing of impacts of transboundary effects in case of failure caused by faulty design, human error or natural causes (for example, an earthquake).

It is pertinent within this context to focus on the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that occurred in 1986, the effects of which were far-reaching.

The Chernobyl nuclear plant was located close to the border with Belarus. Some may assume that the effects of this disaster were limited to neighbouring Belarus and The Russian Federation in addition to Ukraine. This is not correct as radioactive contamination resulting from Chernobyl was detected in various other countries.

The report of the Chernobyl Forum entitled “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts and Recommendations to the Governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine”  limits itself to the areas surrounding the incident site within the confines of the then existent Soviet Union.

However, another report dated April 2006 commissioned by Green MEP Rebecca Harms entitled “The Other Report on Chernobyl (Torch)” is more detailed. This other report concludes that over half of Chernobyl’s fallout was deposited outside the confines of Ukraine/ Belarus/Russian Federation, that the fallout contaminated about 40 per cent of Europe’s surface area and that 30,000 to 60,000 excess deaths from cancer were predicted. Radioactive discharges were dispersed across many parts of Europe: former Yugoslavia, Sweden, Bulgaria, Norway, Rumania, Germany, Austria and Poland. 3.9 million square kilometres of European territory was affected, that is 40 per cent of the surface area of Europe.

Other parts of Europe were in receipt of low levels of contamination: Moldova, the European part of Turkey, Slovenia, Switzerland, Slovak Republic and the United Kingdom.

The Rebecca Harms report refers to restrictions still in place in the UK in 2006 on 374 farms covering 750 sq. km and 200,000 sheep, of high level Caesium-137 contamination in wild boar in Germany, as well as contamination of natural and near-natural environments in Sweden and Finland, and high level Caesium-137 contamination of wild game, wild mushrooms, berries and carnivore fish in lakes in Germany, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Poland.

There is practically no limit to the transboundary effect of a nuclear disaster. Once the disaster has occurred its effects are primarily dependent on the prevailing weather conditions.

On 22 May, Claudio Scajola, Italy’s Minister of Economic Development, announced plans that Italy would shift to nuclear energy. He stated: “By the end of this legislature we will put down the foundation stone for the construction in our country of a group of new-generation nuclear plants. An action plan to go back to nuclear power cannot be delayed anymore.” This contrasts heavily with and is in defiance of the decision taken in a referendum in Italy on 8 November 1987, which in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster called for a ban on nuclear reactors. The Italian government subsequently adopted the referendum decision as policy.

That is the position to Malta’s north.

Another scenario is developing to our south. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who rushed to Tripoli in July 2007 as soon as the Bulgarian nurses were released, signed a number of agreements one of which was a deal to construct a French nuclear reactor in Libya intended to produce potable water through desalination.

Nuclear energy is currently being considered by a number of governments due to it being carbon free. Those advocating it tend to ignore the problems of storage of nuclear waste. They also play down the catastrophic consequences of failures as a result of design flaws, human error or natural causes. They also ignore the limited supply of uranium. It is estimated that known supplies of uranium will not last more than another 40 years!

There have been too many near misses of operational failure of nuclear power stations. Those in Slovenia and the Czech Republic that occurred last week are only the most recent in the EU. Among other incidents reported last year, one in an earthquake zone in Japan stands out. I refer to the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station in the Niigata Prefecture in Japan that was damaged in the July 2007 earthquake. Various other accidents go unreported and only come to light after a number of years. The Japan Times, for example, on 31 March 2007 reported on a number of such cases in Japan that occurred in the past 20 years!

Faced with these nuclear pressures from our neighbours, as an EU member Malta should invoke the provisions of the Espoo Convention to come to its rescue.

The Espoo Convention signed in February 1991 in the town of Espoo just outside Helsinki is entitled Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context. It was concluded within the framework of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

In 1997 the Espoo Convention was incorporated into the EU environmental acquis in the form of amendments to the 1985 Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. Article 7 of the Directive now provides that, “Where a Member State is aware that a project is likely to have significant effects on the environment in another Member State, or where a Member State likely to be significantly affected so requests, the Member State in whose territory the project is intended to be carried out shall send to the affected Member State as soon as possible and not later than when informing its own public” detailed information on the project and its transboundary impact and information on the decision which is to be taken, “and shall give the other Member State a reasonable time in which to indicate whether it wishes to participate in the Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure”.

In our particular case this would oblige the Republic of Italy to make available to the Republic of Malta all available information and subsequently to facilitate Malta’s involvement in all the procedures leading to an EIA thereby ensuring that these are followed to the letter, without any short cuts.

With regard to the French nuclear presence on Libyan soil, the provisions of the Espoo Convention would not be applicable as Libya is not a signatory. In this case French economic interests may appear, at face value, to supersede environmental rhetoric. Both France and Libya should however be held to account – France within the EU framework and Libya in international fora. The inapplicability of the Espoo Convention to Libyan territory does not exonerate Libya or France from ensuring that they take all necessary steps to avoid transboundary impacts. This can be easily done by using alternative technologies.

Within this context there is quite a lot of environmental diplomacy that still needs seeing to with Paris, Tripoli, Rome and Brussels.

In the case of Rome, maybe the Italians would also consider the need for another referendum to tie Berlusconi’s hands more securely.

EU accession has given us the tools to use in order to avoid becoming a nuclear sandwich in the Mediterranean. We should not discard them.

Chernobyl : it-22 anniversarju

majjal imwieled f’Chernobyl fl-1986

 

Nhar il-Ġimgħa 25 t’April kien it-22 anniversarju tad-diżastru nuklejari ta’ Chernobyl, fl-Ukrajina.

 

Fil-lejl bejn il-25 u s-26 t’April 1986 sploda r-rejattur numru 4 tal-impjant nuklejari ta’ Chernobyl. L-impatt tar-radjuattivita fuq medda kbira ta’ art mad-dawra kien bejn 30 u 40 darba tal-impatt fuq Hiroshima fl-1945. Effettwa ukoll il-pajjiżi diversi, fosthom dawk ġirien u iktar ukoll.

 

L-imwiet bħala riżultat tal-isplużjoni kienu 56 diretti u madwar 9,000 oħra li żviluppaw il-cancer bħala riżultat tar-radjazzjoni li kienu esposti għaliha.

 

Effettwa ukoll lill-annimali kif jidher mir-ritratt li qed jakkumpanja dan il-post.

 

Il-Punent kien induna b’dan l-inċident minn indaġni li saret fl-Isvezja nhar is-27 t’April 1986 meta kien instab li ħaddiema tal-impjant nuklejari f’Forsmark l-Isvezja kellhom indikazzjonijiet ta’ radjuattivita fuq ħwejjiġhom u dan ma kienx ġej mill-impjant Svediż.

 

 

Fortunatament rari jkollna inċidenti ta’ dan it-tip. Ma jfissirx dan li l-enerġija nukleari hi aċċettabbli. Tikkawża ħafna problemi.  Imma dawk niddiskutuhom f’xi okkażjoni oħra.