National Nuclear Regulator

Where's the transparency in the National Nuclear Regulator board?

The process for appointing the board of the state-owned National Nuclear Regulator is legally meant to be transparent, to strengthen oversight in this potentially dangerous industry. But the Cabinet has failed to honour this requirement. OUTA queried this and officials were slow to respond, then said that the civil society representatives legally required as part of the board will be identified in a restricted process. OUTA objects to this.


National Nuclear Regulator needs more independence from the ministry

In October 2023, OUTA made a submission to the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy, on the National Nuclear Regulator Amendment Bill. In this submission, OUTA warned that parliament was missing an opportunity to address the NNR’s independence and should have ensured that there was proper separation between the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy and the NNR.

South Africa is a member state of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). South Africa also ratified the 1996 Convention on Nuclear Safety. In 2013, the IAEA visited South Africa to share lessons from the Fukushima disaster. A report was subsequently released and brought under the attention of the South African government. Amongst other things, the IAEA found that: “The Minister of Energy and the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) are identified in the two Acts as having regulatory functions over nuclear activities. Considering that the Minister of Energy is also in charge of the promotion of nuclear energy and given that the Minister appoints the NNR Board and CEO, approves NNR’s budget and promulgates regulations, the INIR team is of the view that the separation between the regulatory functions and the promotional activities is not adequate, thus calling into question the effective independence of the NNR.”

This finding speaks for itself and implies that there needs to be proper separation between the Minister and the NNR. We believe this can be achieved though amending the NNR Act by transferring the powers conferred upon the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy to another ministry which is not biased towards a particular technology, such as the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.

OUTA’s submission is here.

You can track the progress of this bill through parliament on the Parliamentary Monitoring Group here.

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Eskom intends to extend the life of Koeberg nuclear power station but the National Nuclear Regulator, which watches over Koeberg, has dropped its civil society representatives    

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