JOHANNESBURG, May 2 (Xinhuanet) -- The South African government said on Monday that it was awaiting the outcome of an investigation into claims that former Pelindaba nuclear workers had contracted serious diseases, possibly caused by radiation.
Tshidiso Maqubela, chief director for nuclear energy of the Department of Mineral and Energy Affairs, said that the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa launched the investigation after people had come forward with diseases such as lung cancer, neurological disorders, miscarriages and other cancers.
"The department will have to wait for the outcome of the investigation before we can say anything about the situation at Pelindaba," Maqubela said. "We hope that the investigation is wrapped up speedily so that the department can do something about it."
Local daily Star newspaper reported on Monday that some of the workers who worked at the Pelindaba facility in the 1980s and 1990s had developed serious disorders.
Their plight came to the fore after an occupational health expert found that out of a sample of 23 former Pelindaba workers, 10 showed signs of having been exposed to hazardous substances "which could cause adverse health effects."
South African President Thabo Mbeki entered the fray over nuclear radiation levels at Pelindaba on Thursday last week, dismissing statements about the existence of radioactive waste at the site as "reckless" and "very regrettable."
"I am deeply disturbed by the reckless statements that have been made regarding the Pelindaba nuclear emissions and how these are affecting the people of Atteridgeville," Mbeki said.
"These are statements made without foundation and are, in my view, totally impermissible. We cannot go on scaring people about something that does not exist."
Minerals and Energy Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said the government intended to pass legislation to make it a punishable offense to spread allegations which resulted in unnecessary panic or incitement. Enditem