Cape Town - Civil society was not convinced that the Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant was safe enough for a lifespan extension.
This after Eskom announced its intention to extend the operating life of Koeberg by another 20 years after its current licence from the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) expires in July 2024.
Eskom has submitted a safety case in support of its application to extend the plant’s lifespan, on which the NNR had begun a process of robust scrutiny.
Nuclear Power Plant divisional executive Orion Phillips said Eskom was in the process of finalising the Public Information Document (PID) of the safety case and would have to publish both the application and the PID in the government gazette, newspapers and serve notices to interested and affected parties.
However, some civil society organisations and experts believed the worrying culture of secrecy around Koeberg was unacceptable and that the entire safety case should be made public – not just the PID.
Southern African Faith Communities’ Environmental Institute (Safcei) executive director Francesca de Gasparis said, “We saw with concern that Eskom was looking to extend the lifespan of Koeberg without issuing the safety report. We find it disingenuous that information is not being shared with the public if the safety report has been made independently.”
Koeberg Alert Alliance spokesperson Peter Becker said it was previously established in court that public consultation was only meaningful if the public was informed.
“It is questionable if that can be achieved when information is withheld from the public,” Becker said.
Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshansha said: “The application for the extension of the operating life of the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station has been submitted to the regulator, and is to help enable the regulator to perform its duties, rather than for public consumption.”
In terms of the regulations, Mantshansha said the Public Information Document was sufficient to inform the public of Eskom’s intention and the process of extending the operating life of the power station.
Energy analyst professor Hartmut Winkler, a physicist at the University of Johannesburg, said civil society and the public were correct in demanding greater transparency and full information regarding the nuclear plant.
“To some extent Eskom is still stuck in the ‘securocratic’ ways of the 1980s (this attitude however also applies to the international nuclear sector in general). While I accept that there is information that Eskom cannot make public, their reticence in responding to enquiries and the over-the-top redacting I have seen in some of their released documentation is unacceptable,” Winkler said.