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Despite widespread opposition to the proposal to build new nuclear energy capacity in SA, from academia, civil society, labour unions, economists, corporate SA and just about everyone aside from some in government and the usual industry insiders, the Department of Environmental Affairs has quietly approved the construction of up to three new nuclear reactors at the Koeberg site. While many potential hurdles still need to be overcome by the pro-nuclear lobby before silver shovels and asinine grins appear at Koeberg as the first sods are turned, now is perhaps as good a time as any to return to the issue of the safety of nuclear power. Responding to the partial meltdown of reactor 2 at Three Mile Island in the US in 1979, sociologist Charles Perrow wrote a seminal paper entitled Normal Accident at Three Mile Island. In this paper, written well before Chernobyl and Fukushima, he argues that large-scale nuclear accidents are inevitable, cannot be prevented and will happen. They are inev...

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