OUTA challenges nuclear comment period

An appeal to lodge objections to the Eskom nuclear site applications for two proclaimed nuclear sites, one for Duynefontein, north of Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, was made to the public by Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), a non-profit civil action organisation.

The organisation believes the applications for nuclear licences for Duynefontein and Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape were “hidden” in Provincial Gazettes and limited newspapers, suggesting, they said, a purposeful lack of meaningful public participation.

The organisation listed various discrepancies which were found in the gazettes and notices advertised in newspaper publications, and posted these points on the website for the public to use in their objections.

The discrepancies included the fact that the gazette notice was printed on August 8 and listed a 30-day comment period; however, the gazette stated that the final date for comment submission was August 29. This shortened the comment period by more than one week.

“We believe that the nuclear energy issue and the sites of the nuclear energy reactors are of significant cost and impact to the South African society at large.

“This matter requires more time for the public to provide comment on; more detail about what type or nuclear reactors will be installed and the impact of these nuclear reactors on the marine and inland environments,” stated the OUTA objection form.

The link to the form was shared on various social media platforms, including the Melkbosstranders Facebook page, and received 18 000 submissions before the comment closing period on Monday August 29.

The organisation pleaded with people to continue submitting their responses until yesterday, Tuesday September 6, which would conclude the 30-day comment period, and they managed to receive 25 110 comments by September 2.

“Many things concerning Eskom have gone under the radar in the past; when we got the gazette, we saw that it was not implemented effectively. There are so many mistakes on it, the dates don’t correlate. Either they are negligent or they’re trying to avoid public comment.

“Our concern is for the communities who have no access to the internet and cannot object,” said OUTA project manager, Julius Kleynhans.

Melkbosstrand Ratepayers’ Association chairman, Smokie la Grange, said it is the organisation’s democratic right to lodge their objection, but the ratepayers have no objections to the nuclear site application as they are educated on nuclear function and do not have worries about nuclear expansion at this stage.

“I am pro-nuclear, if it [Duynefontein nuclear site] is as well run as Koeberg, then I see no problem with it. People can attend the next public safety information forum held by Eskom to voice their concern,” said Ms La Grange.

According to Eskom stakeholder management manager, Lewis Phidza, the comment period has not been reduced as stated by OUTA, and that Eskom has extended the comment period for the Thyspunt Nuclear site application by 30 days, giving the public additional time to comment from the date of publication in the Eastern Cape Provincial Gazette.

Mr Phidza also explained that alternative energy production measures were not considered by Eskom, as they received the mandate from the Cabinet, to own and operate the new nuclear reactors.

“The Department of Energy (DoE) Integrated Resource Plan prefers that the new reactors be of the Generation III or higher of pressurised water type [be used]. Koeberg has two pressurised water reactors that have operated safely for over 30 years.

“With regard to alternative energy solutions, Eskom is implementing the country’s Integrated Resource Plan, which covers all types of energy, from coal, solar, wind, and hydro, to nuclear. The DoE, is mandated to manage the procurement process. In terms of funding, mega nuclear project deals are negotiated and concluded at governmental level,” said Mr Phidza.

Mr Phidza said that the process has entered the public participation stage and the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) will conduct further public hearings.

The City of Cape Town executive deputy mayor, Ian Neilson, said the City is opposed to any additional nuclear build at Duynefontein, as it will extend the limitation on development of the city much further into the future.

“We would prefer for the Koeberg Power Station to be closed at the end of its economic life and to be replaced by generation capacity elsewhere.

“The existing Koeberg Power Station already impacts severely on the ability to develop housing in this development corridor and it is costly to the City.

“We would not want this restriction to be extended into the future more than is the case at the moment. If the build would go ahead, the City would have to have a greater provision for disaster management, but would also have to incur significant expense through the provision of additional roads for public evacuation in the event of an emergency,” said Mr Neilson.

* Members of the public may obtain details about the public hearings from the NNR website: http://www.nnr.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/NNR-Press-Release-New-Build-NISL-Application-Accepted.pdf”