Nearly-missed opportunity for public to comment on stealth nuclear gazette
On the 8th of August 2016, Eskom surreptitiously slipped under the public participation radar a critical gazette regarding Nuclear procurement, which would have enabled them to acquire licenses to build two new nuclear plants without proper public scrutiny.
This is a dubious move, as in law, if the public fail to comment on a gazette it is deemed to constitute acceptance of the proposal, and thus cannot easily be challenged legally at a later stage.
The National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) and Eskom are attempting to license new Nuclear construction sites by hiding the notice in the Eastern Cape Provincial Gazette (rather than the National Gazette) and shortening the deadline to below the 30 days, as required by law. Eskom applied for a site licence to develop a nuclear reactor/power plant at Thyspunt (near Jeffreys Bay) and at the existing Koeberg (Duynefontein) nuclear site. Public participation is an essential part of the legalisation process for this element of the Nuclear Build program.
This move negates the spirit and constitutional rights for the public to participate in decisions that affect them. The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) believes that this covert move occurred because the players thought if the public did not notice, they could slip the gazette through unchallenged. OUTA finds it critical that as many supporters of the public as possible should comment and as such, OUTA has prepared a participation portal and made it easy for the public to submit comments on this Gazette.
It is important to note that Gazette comments are not the same as petitions, as government has the obligation to demonstrate they have taken account of all gazette comments made by interested and affected parties, before forging ahead with their action. Failing to do so, Government faces the possibility of a legal challenge at a later stage. However, if the public fail to comment, then no legal challenge will be possible.
As OUTA had learned with the e-toll matter, it’s extremely important for society to act at certain stages of legislated participation. The moment for comment on the controversial nuclear matter is now, and it is crucial that as many supporters of the public as possible submit a comment as an interested and affected party.