Kenyan Radioactive Waste Plant Awaits EIA Approval
The proposed radioactive waste processing plant (RAWP) is reportedly awaiting approval of its Environmental Impact Assesment (EIA) report from Kenya’s National Environmental Management Authority.
Disposal of radioactive waste is a complex issue, not only because of the nature of the waste, but also because of the fact that proper disposal is essential to ensure protection of the health and safety of the public and quality of the environment including air, soil, and water supplies.
It therefore comes as a great surprise to Kenyans who are concerned about public health and environmental quality that the Radiation Protection Board (RPB) have made advanced plans to construct a RAWP facility worth over KSh100 million at the Karen-based Institute of Primate Research in the Nairobi municipality.
According to a report published in the Daily Nation on 19th August 2007, Kenyan Geologists have said that the terrain in the hilly Karen/Lang’ata area and the strong seismic activity in Kiserian, Ongata Rongai and Ngong areas make the location vulnerable to geological disasters. A radioactive waste facility would, therefore, put the area to an even greater risk.
Radioactive waste can be in gas, liquid or solid form, and its level of radioactivity can vary. The waste can remain radioactive for a few hours or several months or even hundreds of thousands of years. Because radioactive waste can be extremely hazardous and can remain radioactive for such a long period of time, finding suitable disposal facilities or locations is difficult. Shiploads of radioactive waste from the developed world are always ‘monitored’ in the highseas while they search for countries willing to be used as dumpsites in exchange for large sums of money.
It does not make any sense that the RPB is handling this matter as if it is a security issue or a government top secret. If there was to occur any radioactive leakages at the plant or a transport accident near the plant, the first people to be exposed to the risk will be Karen residents. One would have therefore thought that the RPB would have held public meetings with Karen residents to sensitize them to increase awareness and also educate them on preventive measures. Such a facility will certainly attract terrorists. Was this project thought out exhaustively?
Kenya is a large country with large tracts of isolated land. Did the RPB consider need to isolate such a facility?
On the other hand, at present, there are no known disposal routes for long-lived radioactive materials. The burial of these materials must not be confused with their safe containment and isolation from the environment. It would seem that the only real solution is to STOP creating the long-live waste.