Earthlife Africa comments on Legal Compliance of Nuclear Policy

Earthlife Africa comments through the Legal Resource Centre on the legal compliance of the Proposed Nuclear Energy Policy And Strategy for the Republic of South Africa.

The full document is available, and the executive summary follows.

1. The Draft Nuclear Energy Policy constitutes the implementation of at least two statutes, the Electricity Act 41 of 1987 and the Mineral Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002;

2. Section 195 the Constitution requires the government to encourage the public to participate in policy making, and to foster transparency by providing the public with timely, accessible and accurate information.

3. The White Paper on Energy Policy of the Republic of South Africa, 1998 states:
“Whether new nuclear capacity will be an option in the future will depend on the environmental and economic merits of the various alternative energy sources relative to nuclear and its political and public acceptability.” “Government will ensure that decisions to construct new nuclear power stations are taken within the context of an integrated energy policy planning process with due consideration given to all relevant legislation, and the process subject to structured participation and consultation with all stakeholders.” “The Department of Mineral and Energy Affairs will ensure that an integrated resource planning approach is adopted for large investment decisions by energy suppliers and service providers, in terms of which comprehensive evaluations of the economic, social and environmental implications of all feasible supply and demand side investments would have to be undertaken. In the energy sector’s case, the National Electricity Regulator will only license new facilities upon the satisfactory completion of an integrated resource plan.”

4. These undertakings made in the White Paper have created a legitimate expectation of public consultation, based on the proper disclosure of relevant information by government, prior to there being a decision to expand nuclear power generation capacity.

5. The Draft Nuclear Energy Policy fails to place in the public domain relevant considerations which should have been taken into account in drafting this policy so that the public can make meaningful comments on these said considerations.

6. The Draft Nuclear Energy Policy fails to disclose the basis of its deviation from the White Paper which requires integrated resource planning. Based on the requirements of the White Paper, the Nuclear Policy should have been preceded by an energy expansion plan as part of the integrated resource plan or integrated electricity plan. The kind of information that should have been supplied in such a plan would have included projections regarding demand, what is driving demand, and exactly what costs would be assumed for the various power options including capital costs per kilowatt, operations and maintenance costs, other parameters, and lead time and lifetime of projects. Other information required would have included the availability factor i.e. how many hours per year the plant/s would produce electricity.

7. The key question in regard to the nuclear expansion policy is whether the nuclear option has been compared with other alternatives. A National Integrated Resource Plan was issued by NERSA in 2003/4 which conducted only a sensitivity analysis on the PBMR but makes no mention of a large-scale expansion of conventional nuclear power. A further NIRP is awaited but has not yet been publicly released. The question therefore arises as to why there is a deviation from the 2003/4 plan.

8. The Integrated Energy Plan is a requirement of the White Paper on Energy and is a requirement for integrated electricity planning. The comparison of alternatives is an important component of this process. It is submitted that without such studies having been commissioned and made available to the public, any comments on the Nuclear Policy by the public would be meaningless.

9. The Draft Nuclear Policy is a hasty and ill informed document replete with sweeping unsupported statements as to the appropriateness of nuclear power as an energy option.

10. Based on prior public statements by Government, the decision to expand the nuclear industry has already been made and no meaningful consultation can made, as this issue has been prejudged.

Earthlife Africa demands that the Draft Nuclear Energy Policy be withdrawn. Should the Department of Mineral and Energy fail to withdraw the policy, Earthlife Africa reserves its rights to challenge the policy as unlawful.

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