Ghana’s nuclear energy plans in danger

...as massive encroachment hits GAEC lands

Ghana could lose out on achieving its nuclear power project if current massive and arbitrary encroachment activities by the public on lands secured for the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) continue, regardless of security implications.

These human settlements pose major security threats not only to the nuclear reactor and also to the safety of the various radioactive waste that are in the custody of the Commission and further leave little space for the expansion of other projects.

Currently encroachers have taken over about 30 percent the 2002.5 acre land area that was secured by the Government of Ghana via an Executive Instrument Number 75 (EI 75) in 1973 the Commission’s operations.

A visit by the Ghana News Agency to the area after of reports of encroached confirmed complains of massive construction of residential facilities which are less than 600 meters from the Nuclear Reactor of the Commission.

While some developers have reached roofing levels, others are at the foundation level and had masons and other laborers working feverishly to complete their work on schedule.

Professor Benjamin Jabez Botwe Nyarko, Director-General of GAEC, in an interview with the GNA described the current situation as alarming should any disaster occur, maintaining that the EI that secured the GAEC lands have not been amended and therefore no one has the authority to sale any portion of the land.

He said a large proportion of the Commission’s lands had been taken over by encroachers making plans for a possible nuclear power project vague.

He stated that the Commission received reports from its security patrol team that some  land guards armed with offensive weapons and believed to have been contracted by a faction of chiefs in Ashongman went to demarcate portions of the land they have already sold out to developers.

“Such negative activities can also wipe away Ghana’s reputation and experience in operating a research reactor for almost 15 years with good safety record,” he said.

Prof Nyarko explained that the Commission had been investigating the use of nuclear power, and was working with the International Atonic Energy Agency (IAEA) to implement a nuclear power plant in Ghana as part of a wider project, on Sustainable Energy Development for Sub-Saharan Africa.

However, Ghana must be able to convince the IAEA and the United Nations Security Council that she is capable of ensuring the security and safe disposal of all nuclear and radioactive equipment when such equipments outlive their usefulness.

Prof Nyarko said radioactive sources were being used nationwide in various areas including the mining, health, industry and agricultural sectors, adding that Ghana has well established Radiation Protection Infrastructure that could be upgraded to deal with all emerging radiations.

It is the responsibility of the National Radioactive Waste Management Centre being to ensure that such dangerous equipments do not get into wrong hands to their wrong usage.

He explained that the nuclear reactor produces radioactive emissions that are dangerous to human health and this explains the reasons why the buffer lands were secured for unforeseen emergencies and also to ensure that human settlements were at least two kilometers away from the facility.

Prof Nyarko gave the assurance that the Commission would maintain its vigilance on the activities of such encroachers and ensure stringent security measures to preserve the remaining lands for both security reasons and also to continue its expansion programmes.

He said the Commission would soon carry out a massive demolition exercise to ensure that all buildings that are close to sensitive areas such as the buffer lands preserved for unexpected nuclear spillages or falls were removed.

Prof. Nyarko who expressed his frustration over the lack of discipline on the part of buyers and sellers of such government lands, said the Commission spends too much time in dealing with land disputes instead of concentrating in achieving its mandate and beyond.

He said owing to inadequate budget allocation over the years, the Commission had not been able to fence the land but is soliciting for support from corporate organizations and called for private sector assistance to be able to fence its lands.

 

Source: GNA