South Africa: Nuclear Activist Takes Energy Minister to Court over Dismissal

The NNR Act of 1999 requires that the Board of the NNR includes a person representing civil society. Becker of the Koeberg Alert Alliance was appointed to the Board to fulfil this role. Becker has filed a court application with the Western Cape High Court naming Mantashe, the NNR and the NNR Board Chair as respondents. He is requesting the court to set aside his dismissal contesting that is was “unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid.”

Related news: Another incidents with potentially disasterous consequences at South Africa’s nuclear power plant

Where there is smoke, there is fire as they say. South Africa’s nuclear power station, Koeberg, has been dogged by controversy since the state energy utility, Eskom, decided to extend its life by another 20 years. The 1940MW nuclear plant, consisting of two reactor units, was commissioned in 1984 by the former apartheid government and is fast nearing its sell by date.

The nuclear plant is proned to units tripping and airborne contamination was recently found during a routine test. 

Jacobs was chosen for the R20 billion Life Extension Programme at Koeberg Nuclear Plant but Eskom recently deferred the steam generator replacement at Koeberg Unit 2 without providing any substantial reason. At the same time South Africa’s NNR CEO has resigned amidst the ongoing controversy. This has led to widespread speculation that all is not well with the government run nuclear power programme which also icludes 2500MW of new build capacity. 

Related news: Decommisioning SA’s nucear plant will not be easy

Despite the risks to health and safety, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has given Koeberg a stamp of approval after conducting a recent inspection of the plant. The Koeberg Alert Alliance argues that the IAEA did not “inspect” Koeberg, and certainly did not assess the plant as having a “clean bill of health”. Read more 

Related news: Life-Extension of Koeberg Nuclear Power Station Poses Significant Risks

In his court application, Becker denies that he has a conflict of interest and argues that holding and expressing critical and alternative views does not constitute misconduct. He also argues that the minister has an ulterior motive to get rid of a director in the board who may raise challenging questions concerning nuclear energy in South Africa.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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