Nuclear Power: No Unilateral Decisions Without A Proper National Debate

By Kofi Thompson

One can understand the energy minister of a nation with a deficit in its power generating capacity, and in which the demand for electricity sometimes outstrips supply at peak periods, being tempted to opt for nuclear power as a panacea for power outages and rationing electricity.

However, when it comes to the question of nuclear power, it is vital that those running our nation do not fail to take into account our unfortunate history as a people prone to neglecting and not regularly maintaining vital infrastructure and key installations.

Are we all not witnesses to the way even burst sections of water pipelines are routinely ignored for days and weeks on end – instead of being quickly repaired?

Who does not know of street lights and traffic light poles that are never removed and replaced when knocked down by vehicles?

And do those in charge of them not invariably fail to carry out routine inspections of bridges and other public facilities and structures, around the country?

Yes, nuclear power might seem an attractive option, but we must never forget that this is a nation in which design specifications for government projects are routinely altered – to make it possible for those taking kickbacks to get their 10 percent.

What is the guarantee that it will be any different when it comes to the design specifications for the construction of a nuclear power plant and radioactive waste storage facilities – and that nuclear power plant contracts will not be treated in exactly the same fashion that virtually all other government-awarded contract specifications are arbitrarily varied in Ghana, I ask?

With respect, no elected politician – backed by a few self-seeking bureaucrats who answer to no one – in a democracy has the right to take a decision whose consequences are irreversible – and will have an impact on generations of the Ghanaian people for thousands of years to come.

Surely, a proposal that could impact so negatively on the quality of life of present and future generations of Ghanaians thousands of years hence, must not be taken lightly – and without ensuring that there is a proper national conversation about the issue and a consensus arrived at?

For example, what company will build the nuclear plant the energy minister talks about? Will there be other companies that will also be bidding to build such a plant? How much exactly will the nuclear power plant cost – and where will the money to finance its construction come from, and on what terms?

It would amount to a crime against the people of Ghana if the desire for kickbacks were to drive our nation to opt for nuclear power.

As we are all aware, one of the main reasons why so many people in the wealthiest nations of the world are against nuclear power is that when there is a serious nuclear accident, the effects of contamination and radiation poisoning are so overwhelmingly devastating and life-threatening. Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima are examples that we cannot and must not ignore.

Why bring such troubles upon our people – who put up with the greed, short-sightedness and incompetence of sundry state officials so stoically?

Those who talk about Nkrumah’s vision must thank Providence that he did not stay in power long enough to build a nuclear power plant in Ghana.

Who would have dared encroach on the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission’s (GAEC) land in his time? And what engineer would have neglected his duties at the GAEC in his day?

Are engineers at the Volta River Authority, Gridco and the Electricity Company of Ghana not in cohorts with selfish and extremist politicians playing dumsor-dumsor politricks as we speak? Let us be realistic – and serious.

Today, virtually all state employees are on the take and on the make.

How can such a corrupt and dysfunctional society even think about building and maintaining nuclear power plants and radioactive nuclear waste storage facilities – when we cannot even maintain landfill sites using best practice to safeguard and protect underground water from contamination?

Ordinary Ghanaians, who are a sensible people, will never agree to any power-generating technology that produces radioactive waste, which will remain dangerous and life-threatening for over a thousand years to come – and could make huge swathes of Ghana uninhabitable were there to be a serious accident at a nuclear power plant in Ghana.

We must not allow any unilateral decisions to be taken by a few members of our mostly-corrupt educated urban elites, committing Ghana to building a nuclear power plant, without a proper national debate on this very important life and death matter.

Ghana’s energy minister, the Hon. F. Kofi Buah must revise his notes quickly on this controversial issue – if he does not want posterity to judge him harshly.

It is him who will be blamed if disaster struck at a nuclear power plant in Ghana, the decision for the construction of which was mainly his.

If those who advocate this potential disaster, and lobby on behalf of corrupt foreign corporations seeking to rip-off Ghana, do not want the curses of future generations, they must ensure that no unilateral decisions are taken in this matter, without a proper national debate. A word to the wise…

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