Previous posts have described how Minister Mantashe suspended the Board member who was representing communities on the Board of the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR). This suspension had no basis in law, and to avoid an urgent court case set for 8 February 2022, a settlement was reached whereby Mantashe agreed to make a decision on whether or not to discharge the Board member by 15 February. Despite this settlement agreement being made an order of the court, Mantashe failed to do so. However, on 15 February he finally laid out his reasons for intending to discharge the Board member. The full letter is included below.
Meanwhile on 3 February, Mantashe was interviewed on Newzroom Afrika TV, when he explained that those with anti-nuclear views are not welcome on the NNR Board. This is echoed in point 6 of his letter below. Mantashe did not explain why he had appointed Peter Becker in the first place, who had been an anti-nuclear voice in South Africa for over a decade. Mantashe also did not mention any intention to suspend those who are on the Board and hold strong pro-nuclear views.
The NNR deals with issues of safety, and ensuring that all safety related regulations and standards are maintained. It makes no decisions on the desirability of nuclear power, and gives no input into the national policy on the desirability of one energy technology versus another. The pro- or anti-nuclear views should therefore be irrelevant.
Except for one thing: there is a natural tendency for those actively promoting nuclear power to interpret safety requirements in a more lenient way, and for those who are not in support of nuclear power to want to apply those requirements more stringently. And therein lies the problem. If the Minister removes anyone from the Board who is not supportive of nuclear power, what will be the balance of those left?
Here is the full letter from the Minister. The legal team will be preparing a response which will be sent early next week, and the Minister is anticipated to give a his final decision by 24 February.
Edit: The article of ‘2 February’ referred to in the letter seems to refer to this article, actually from 16 December 2021.