Select Page

PRESS RELEASE from Project 90 by 2030 and Koeberg Alert Alliance

Civil society concerned about NNR’s public participation process for Koeberg’s licence extension

Civil society representatives who have attended the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) public hearings on the proposed extension of the lifetime of the Koeberg nuclear power station are dissatisfied and feel that the process has been a “tick-box exercise” lacking transparency and adequate access to information.

Several organisations claim that they were forced to submit time consuming Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) requests to access relevant documents which should have been made available as part of the initial public comment period in January 2023.

The NNR has also announced that it has not yet received “the seismic risk analysis report and other information” from Eskom which is necessary to support the application to extend the life of the 40 year old plant by another 20 years.

The next Public Information Session will be held in Athlone on Saturday 17 February 2024 at 09h30 for 10h00 at the Belthorn Community Centre, corner Kinder and Belgravia Roads. Note that the NNR website incorrectly advertises the venue, which means many people might go to the wrong place.

The NNR website also incorrectly states that the deadline for registering is 15 January. In fact, anyone may arrive and register on the day to make a presentation.

Civil society’s response to the previous hearings

 

The NNR has already held two hearings in February, in Tableview and Atlantis. “We believe the first comment period in January 2023 as well as this one are not valid as it has not sought a meaningful and fully informed public participation process,” says Project 90 by 2030’s Gabriel Klaasen. “Many youth and community members not only within the 16km radius but across the broader city are either not aware of the submission period or public hearings around Koeberg’s life extension.”

 

“With the petition for a 20 year extension of the current licence for Koeberg we raise the concern that it is not safe – this is noted in a recent report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, where 14 safety concerns were identified and listed. Koeberg is not cost effective or least cost in any scenario, with current extension being forecasted to cost around R20 billion noting that this is a quote from fourteen years ago and does not reflect existing costs based on inflation and delays. The participatory process does not allow comments on costs – but how can they be separated from the decision making process?

 

“Also the concern around waste has yet to be addressed, with radioactive waste also classified as spent fuel, and doesn’t have a long term solution or plan,” says Klaasen.

 

“There are also concerns about the evacuation plan, according to Lydia Petersen, the spokesperson for the Koeberg Alert Alliance. “Every 18 months the NNR conducts a test to check if the Koeberg emergency plan is workable. The last drill was in November 2022 and we were told at the public safety forum that the NNR found 14 “non-compliances”. One example was that the equipment needed to decontaminate people was not even in Cape Town.”

 

The NNR website has already published the presentations made in Tableview, where there was also dissatisfaction expressed with the process. “The notice requiring public participation was only published in late November 2023 and the deadline of 15 January 2024 for comments was unrealistic due to poor communication and many of the public being away over the festive season” according to a concerned resident of Tableview.

 

A major concern was about the reports of large cracks in the containment domes which cover the nuclear reactors. “The containment walls are being patched, but what about the ongoing damage to the steel reinforcement from the many years of chlorine ingress?” Chlorine is a component of sea salt and is what causes steel near the sea to rust more rapidly than inland structures.

 

Dr Marius Joubert also spoke at the Tableview hearings, and expressed concerns about the safety of extending the life of Koeberg. “Similar to Fukushima, Koeberg has a history of project delivery problems, which has raised concerns about the plant’s safety and reliability,” he says.

 

Joubert is also concerned about the risk of earthquakes causing a nuclear accident. “This is because the region is located near the boundary between the African plate and the South American plate, two of the earth’s major tectonic plates. These plates are constantly moving, and then they rub against each other and can cause earthquakes,” says Joubert. He believes there is a 64% probability of an earthquake in the western part of South Africa of magnitude 8.0 or greater within the next twenty years, and Koeberg was not designed to be able to withstand such a powerful quake.

 

At the Atlantis hearing, Francesca de Gasparis, director of the South Africa Faith Communities Environmental Institute (SAFCEI) pointed out that “There is no plan in place to evacuate anyone further than 16 km from Koeberg, but evidence from Fukushima and Chernobyl illustrate that radioactive dust can go as far as 50 km.” The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report was also noted by de Gasparis, who expressed “concern that Eskom has not yet met many crucial safety recommendations made in this report and will only do so in many cases after the extension of the licence is granted, if at all”. The same IAEA report stated that “not all necessary data for the containment structure will be available to demonstrate the intended safety function” during the life extension period.

 

Conclusion

 

“With a lack of transparency, massive safety concerns, and a poor public participation process, we call for the long-term operation of Koeberg to be stopped and discarded,” says Klaasen. “It is not the least cost option, and with our leaders focusing on nuclear energy instead of renewable energy, we see that this is clearly a move for profits rather than the benefit of people.”

 

The proposed final public consultation on the Koeberg licence renewal will be held on Saturday, February 17th, in Athlone. He encourages the public to attend and voice their concerns with regards to a possible life extension decision without sufficient information and the lack of transparency and accountability.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email