National Nuclear Regulator board removes civil society representative before taking key decision on Koeberg extension

OUTA and other organisations had to fight to get the legally required civil society representative onto the Regulator’s board, and we question why our representative has been removed

19/01/2022 12:23:05

National Nuclear Regulator board removes civil society representative before taking key decision on Koeberg extension


OUTA is concerned about the suspension of Peter Becker from the board of the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR). Becker, from Koeberg Alert Alliance (KAA), represents civil society on the NNR board.

“Becker’s suspension is a blow to civil society,” says Brendan Slade, OUTA Legal Project Manager.

The NNR is responsible for authorising the extension of the life of Koeberg nuclear power station. Koeberg is legally due to shut down in 2024, but Eskom has applied to the NNR for authorisation to extend the life by 20 years by undertaking refurbishment and upgrades. A key aspect of this project is safety.

Neither Eskom nor the NNR has been transparent about the life extension, which is estimated to cost at least R20 billion and which, until recently, appears to have been presented to the public as ongoing maintenance rather than an extension of life.

We regard transparency and civilian oversight of this process essential.

KAA reported that Becker was blocked from a board meeting on Monday and was initially refused any explanation. On Tuesday, he received a formal letter of suspension from Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe, citing allegations of misconduct from October 2021 which the Minister claimed that Becker had failed to respond to. Becker’s lawyers point out that he had indeed responded. 

It has emerged that, also on Tuesday, the board formally granted Eskom permission to go ahead with the replacement of three steam generators at Koeberg. We assume the decision to grant this permission was made at Monday’s board meeting.

OUTA is particularly concerned that Becker’s suspension was timed to block him from that board meeting and from further such meetings about the Koeberg extension. The decision about replacing the steam generators is a crucial part of the extension.

“If Becker’s suspension is based on his vocal attitude on nuclear and Koeberg, then this is a governance issue as it reflects bias by the NNR against him. The board should be able to accommodate opposing views, particularly from the civil society representative. Decisions on Koeberg’s extension require interrogating not rubber stamping,” says Slade.

OUTA supported Becker’s nomination to the NNR board.

Becker was appointed to the board in April 2021, after OUTA and other civil society organisations campaigned for civil society representatives to be appointed as legally required. The Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy had appointed a new NNR board in August 2020 but failed to include civil society representatives. The board operated for nine months without the representatives, which we regard as a failure of good governance. For more on this, see here.


OUTA concerns over the Koeberg extension of life project

On 13 January 2022, OUTA wrote to the NNR and Eskom, querying the Koeberg extension of life project, why this appears to be going ahead without regard to the law, and asking what had happened to the public participation process required for extending the operating licence.

On 19 January, OUTA also wrote to Minister Mantashe, urging him to reinstate Becker without further delay.

Responses too all our correspondence are still awaited.

OUTA’s letter to the NNR is here, the letter to Eskom is here and the letter to the Minister is here.


Comment

A soundclip with comment by OUTA's Brendan Slade is here.


Picture: OUTA