Citizens for Justice (CFJ) represented Malawi at the Nuclearization of Africa Symposium in Johannesburg South Africa from 16th to 19th November, 2015. The conference was organised by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) which is a federation of medical organisations in 62 countries and the Federation for a Sustainable Environment. Participants included various organizations whose work focuses on legal, environmental and health issues affected by the uranium cycle.
Present at the conference were also specialists who spoke on nuclearization from the perspective of their specialties. These included Energy and Climate Change Researcher Adam Ferrial, French Engineer in Energetic and Nuclear Physics Bruno Chareyron and Andreas Nidecker a Professor of Radiology from Switzerland.
During the presentations, it was learnt that 85% of original radioactivity stays in the tailings storage facilities which are often left unmanaged and exposed to the surrounding communities. This is typically due to neglect by those responsible due to the high costs that come with management of such sites. Uranium mining also produces as many as 25 harmful by-products such as radon and polonium which not only have diverse effects on the environment but are also toxic to the human body. Chronic exposure to radioactivity has been known to cause various cancers, genetic mutation and low intelligence among others, to the affected communities. These effects have been proved in the past in the cases of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Gulf War.
Briefs were presented by the participants on the state of uranium mining in their respective countries. In the case of Malawi, uranium mining came to halt at Paladin Africa managed Kayelekera Uranium Mine in 2014 due to low uranium prices and lack of electricity supply to the mines. Production is due to commence once Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) supplies power. There are however still issues of care and maintenance and breech of the MoU between Paladin and the surrounding communities. CFJ in conjunction with Action Aid and with support from the Tilitonse Fund has tried to organise interface meetings between Paladin and the community and continues to lobby for the rights of the community.
Participants were also able to witness the effects of uranium mining by site visits to West Rand Gold Fields Mining Region and Tudor Shaft Informal Settlement. Here uranium is a by product of gold mining. The meeting therefore resolved that is it critical to promote alternative power in Africa to counter Nuclear Energy.