On Friday, global environmental activist group Greenpeace Africa released a press statement announcing that they had filed papers at the Pretoria High Court to compel energy minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson to update the country’s nuclear regulations.
Greenpeace Africa executive director Michael O’Brien Onyeka said in a press statement that the country’s nuclear strategies are not focusing on the short to medium solutions to alleviate the current energy crisis.
Onyeka said: “Greenpeace believes that new nuclear investments are not a solution to the current electricity crisis, but are in fact a distraction from investments in renewable energy solutions, which can quickly take South Africa out of its current energy crisis.”
He continued: “It would take at least 15 years for any new nuclear project to deliver electricity to the grid, which is far too little, far too late and comes at far too high a price”.
“The fact that the South African government is pushing ahead with controversial plans for new nuclear investments, means that it is critical for the country’s liability regime to be carefully scrutinized so that at a minimum, the maximum of amount protection is given to the citizens of this country, and the liability for a nuclear accident lies firmly with the holders of nuclear licenses”.
The National Nuclear Regulator Act
In the press statement, Greenpeace Africa highlighted Section 29 (1) and Section 29 (2) of the National Nuclear Regulator Act, 47 of 1999. This section states that the Minister of energy is responsible for determining the appropriate levels of financial security to be provided by the holders of nuclear licenses in South Africa. According to the regulations, the levels of nuclear liability should be updated every five years.
“Shockingly, the levels of financial security for nuclear license holders have not been amended, updated or revised in more than 10 years”, Onyeka stated.
“This means there is no lawfully applicable determination for the levels of financial security as required by the Act, and what is currently contained in the regulations is both out of date, and completely inadequate, which is in contravention of South Africa’s constitution”, he explained.
According to Onyeka, the current regulations in South Africa have set the level of liability for a nuclear accident at Koeberg at ZAR2.4 billion ($170 million).
Greenpeace’s actions of taking the ministry to court is to remind government that South Africa is not geared for nuclear investments, but should rather focus on immediate solutions, such as renewable sources.
“Government should be focused on removing the barriers to renewable energy sources that are reliable and can immediately take South Africa out of its current electricity crisis”, Onyeka concluded.