Eskom insists it has complied with the National Nuclear Regulator’s (NNR’s) prescribed processes in its application for Nuclear Installation Site Licences (NISL) at Thyspunt, in the Eastern Cape, and Duynefontein, in the Western Cape. However, a civil society campaigner, Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), alleges that NNR and Eskom have attempted to side-step public participation processes by publishing notices in a Provincial Gazette, rather than the National Gazette and by shortening the deadline to below the 30 days.
In a statement, Outa suggests that the publication of the notice in the Eastern Cape Provincial Gazette and the shortened comment period “negates the spirit and constitutional rights for the public to participate in decisions that affect them”.
“The moment for comment on the controversial nuclear matter is now, and it is crucial that as many members of the public as possible submit a comment as an interested and affected party,” Outa says, adding that if the public fail to comment on a Gazette it is deemed to constitute acceptance of the proposal.
In response, Eskom describes Outa as “misinformed” and that its publication of notices in provincial gazettes is “prescribed by the NNR”.
“The first phase of the NNR’s public participation process requires Eskom as the applicant to inform the public and solicit comment on the NISL application,” Eskom said in a statement, noting that the NNR completed its initial review of its NISL applications on July 28, 2016, and found both applications to be compliant with relevant national policies and regulations.
“On 29 June 2016, the NNR directed Eskom to begin the process to inform interested and affected parties. To this end, on 22 July Eskom started the process of informing persons, bodies, organisations, local authorities and municipalities, as prescribed by the NNR, and published notices about its application in isiXhosa, Afrikaans and English in Provincial Gazettes and newspapers in and around the two areas. The notices requested interested and affected people to send their comments to the NNR by 29 August 2016. These dates are well within the period of 30 days that is prescribed in the National Nuclear Regulator Act (NNR Act),” the utility added.
The notices outline Eskom’s intention to construct and operate multiple nuclear installations and associated auxiliary nuclear installations of a plant type and technology not yet identified.
The second phase, the utility added, would include formal public hearings, in line with Section 21 (4) (b) of the NNR Act. “During this process, Eskom is required to develop a Public Information Document in accordance with the NNR’s requirements which will be used by stakeholders to make in-depth representations during the NNR’s public hearings process.”
Eskom also insisted that it had the requisite internal and external authorisations to proceed with its planning for the construction of new nuclear capacity.
“The Eskom Board provided its support in September 2015 to continue critical nuclear programme development activities. Eskom received correspondence from the Department of Energy (DoE) in December 2015, including a Section 34 determination under the Electricity Regulation Act, 2006, reconfirming its role as owner and operator of the 9 600 MW new build nuclear fleet. The DoE was endorsed as the procuring agency in terms of the Section 34 determination Gazetted on 21 December 2015. Eskom is working with the DoE to define its responsibilities during the procurement process.”