Cape Town – Concerns by the Koeberg Alert Alliance and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Institute (Safcei) about the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s (DMRE) failure to appoint a representative of civil society to the National Nuclear Regulator’s (NNR) board have been dismissed by the government.
The two lobby groups said in a statement that the lack of civil society representation on the board “is contributing to the ongoing weak governance at the NNR, whose role is to monitor and ensure regulations are followed for safety procedures and the prevention of nuclear accidents, resulting in poor oversight and a lack of transparency at the Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant”.
Koeberg Alert Alliance’s Peter Becker said: “According to the NNR Act of 1999, one member of the board should be a representative from civil society. However, when the Cabinet announced a new NNR board on August 5 2020, no such representative was included. Since the beginning of September, I have repeatedly emailed the NNR and the DMRE asking about the process of filling the vacancy, but have not received any answers as yet.”
Safcei’s executive director, Francesca de Gasparis, said: “It is entirely unacceptable that there is no civil society representative on the board of the NNR.
“Affected communities such as people living near Vaalputs – a radioactive waste dump in the Northern Cape – have the right to have a representative on the board who will represent their community and their interests for a safe and healthy environment. It is not right that the minister has not appointed a representative as stipulated in the NNR Act.”
Mariette Liefferink, who served on the NNR Board from 2009 to 2012, said: “Without an informed member of civil society on the board of the NNR to represent affected communities, their rights to human dignity, equality and an environment that is not harmful to health and well-being will continue to be violated.”
In response to the concerns, department spokesperson Thandiwe Maimane said: “The process aimed at securing the appointment of the representatives of organised business and civil society is currently under way.
“Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has initiated a comprehensive consultative process with the National Economic Development and Labour Council and the South African National Civic Organisation aimed at identifying suitable candidates to be considered for the appointment.
“Upon conclusion of this process, the identified individuals will be considered by the Cabinet prior to their appointment being effective, and their identities being made public.”
Maimane dismissed claims about the constitutionality of the board as it stands, and said: “The NNR Board is legally constituted.”