Australian news, and some related international items

Scandal of radiation caused illness in South Africa’s uranium workers

Nuclear illness scourgeThe new Age, Mel Frykberg, 20 Oct 11,  Exposure to uranium at South African nuclear facilities over the years has left dozens of people dead and hundreds of others terminally ill, an investigation by The New Age has revealed.  “These nuclear workers have been used and abused like cannon fodder and then abandoned without any care or compensation when they were no longer of any use to the nuclear industry,” said Mashile Phalane, the former coordinator of Earthlife Africa (ELA).

ELA and the Pelindaba Working Group – comprising ­ex-employees and antinuclear activists – are leading the battle to get compensation for victims. Former nuclear workers claim that they were not provided with protective clothing nor given the necessary medical attention when they were exposed to radiation.

Most claim they were given ­little or, in many cases, no financial compensation and in many cases were summarily dismissed once their symptoms became known.  The country’s nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa), stands accused by activists involved in the long-running campaign to ensure justice for victims and their families, of destroying the lives of hundreds of ex-employees.

Waldemar Botha, 54, a former maintenance fitter at the Valindaba Uranium Enrichment Corporation at the Pelindaba nuclear complex, told The New Age: “I was ordered to take four months’ sick leave after twice being contaminated with high amounts of uranium.”  Botha worked directly with the components that were used to enrich uranium.

ELA also alleges that former Atteridgeville workers pursuing compensation claims received ­visits from Necsa officials at night, pressuring them to sign forms in exchange for being re-employed at higher wages – a claim denied by the nuclear watchdog.  “Previous media reports have been dismissed by Necsa and accusations of pressure on ­investigative journalists have circulated,” said Dominique Gilbert, who has worked with the Pelindaba Working Group.

October 23, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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