Peter Becker, Koeberg Alert Alliance
Peter Becker, Koeberg Alert Alliance

Cabinet appoints critic as member of nuclear regulator board

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Apr 26, 2021

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Cape Town - The government has responded to civil society demands for a public representative on the National Nuclear Regulator’s (NNR) board by appointing one of its most vocal critics, Koeberg Alert Alliance (KAA) spokesperson Peter Becker.

Spokesperson Phumla Williams said the Cabinet approval of the appointment of Becker and three others would be subject to the verification of qualifications and the relevant clearance.

The others appointed are attorney Vuyiswa Miya, National Union of Miners energy sector co-ordinator Khangela Baloyi and a former special adviser to previous Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Allan Taylor.

Last year in response to concerns raised by the KAA, the Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (SAFCEI) and other groups, department spokesperson Thandiwe Maimane said Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe had initiated a comprehensive consultative process with Nedlac and Sanco to identify suitable candidates.

Becker said: “The NNR board has been without a representative since August last year and while this announcement is welcome, it is long overdue.

“Civil society is an essential part of oversight for government and this is a step towards ensuring the NNR applies the highest international safety standards to nuclear installations in South Africa, and the Koeberg plant in particular.

“Eskom’s planned 20-year life extension for Koeberg as well as the proposed new nuclear build fall under the remit of the NNR and I look forward to collaborating with various organisations to ensure that civil society’s voice is heard.

“We are also concerned at the lack of testing of imported seafood for radioactivity, especially in light of the planned release of water contaminated with radioactive material from the Fukushima plant in Japan. Hopefully, I will be able to motivate the NNR to fulfill its mandate and install testing facilities to protect the South African consumer from radioactive seafood.

Earthlife Africa director Makoma Lekalakala said: “We welcome the long overdue appointment of ordinary citizens on the NNR board. We hope this inclusion provides much needed citizen oversight on issues that are of most concern, particularly the expansion of nuclear energy and uranium mining.”

SAFCEI director Francesca de Gasparis said: “This appointment gives us, as civil society, a representative that we can work with to try to improve oversight at the NNR.

“One step to having a strong NNR is making sure that we have a civil society representative on the board, which has now happened and we want the NNR to fulfil its mandate which is about looking after the public’s interests.

“When looking at nuclear energy there have been many issues that have not been handled well in terms or transparency or information sharing and we hope that the NNR will play a more effective role going forward.”

Cape Argus

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