New Long Term Nuclear Regulations?

On 19 June 2020 new Draft Regulations on the Long Term Operation of Nuclear Installations were published by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy for comment, due by 19 August 2020. This is the fourth major nuclear power related activity in government circles since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown (the others were the RFI, the EIA Supplemental submission invitation, and the discussion paper on decommissioning policy).

The exact aim of these new regulations is not clear, giving rise to concerns that they may be aimed at attempting to weaken or bypass the regulations relating to Environmental Impact Assessments.

If they were to be adopted, they would likely be applied to attempting to extend the life of the Koeberg Nuclear Plant, which is due to be shut down in 2024.Nuclear plants are unique in that radiation alters the atomic makeup of materials close to the reactor, leading to an effect called embrittlement which compromises the mechanical strength of the structure. That is why these plants have a design lifetime, after which they should be decommissioned and the reactor vessel and other equipment disposed of as radioactive waste.

Another major issue is the spent nuclear fuel (also know as high level waste). The cost of finally disposing of this waste is not yet known, and so it is financially reckless to allow Koeberg to continue to produce it at a rate of 30 tons per year.

Here is the full text of our submission about these draft regulations:

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