We’re taking the Energy Minister to court: Greenpeace

A statement by Greenpeace

Today Greenpeace Africa announced that the organization has filed papers in the Pretoria High Court to compel the Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, to update the country’s completely inadequate nuclear liability regulations.

This decision comes at a time when South Africa is reeling from a crippling electricity crisis due to severe pressures on the grid, and an energy system that is completely failing to deliver.

“Greenpeace believes that new nuclear investments are not a solution to the current electricity crisis, but are in fact a distraction from investments in renewable energy solutions, which can quickly take South Africa out of its current energy crisis.

It would take at least 15 years for any new nuclear project to deliver electricity to the grid, which is far too little, far too late and comes at far too high a price” said Greenpeace Africa Executive Director Michael O’Brien Onyeka.

“The fact that the South African government is pushing ahead with controversial plans for new nuclear investments, means that it is critical for the country’s liability regime to be carefully scrutinized so that at a minimum, the maximum of amount protection is given to the citizens of this country, and the liability for a nuclear accident lies firmly with the holders of nuclear licenses” continued O’Brien Onyeka.

Section 29 (1) and Section 29 (2) of the National Nuclear Regulator Act, 47 of 1999 states that the Minister of Energy is responsible for determining the appropriate levels of financial security to be provided by the holders of nuclear licenses in South Africa. According to the regulations, the levels of nuclear liability should be updated every five years.

“Shockingly, the levels of financial security for nuclear license holders have not been amended, updated or revised in more than 10 years.

This means there is no lawfully applicable determination for the levels of financial security as required by the Act, and what is currently contained in the regulations is both out of date, and completely inadequate, which is in contravention of South Africa’s constitution” added O’Brien Onyeka.

“The full human and environmental costs of the Fukushima nuclear disaster are yet to be tallied.

However, over 140 000 people were ordered to evacuate from Fukushima Prefecture alone, and approximately R450 billion was listed by TEPCO in September 2014 for permanent indemnification and provisional compensation.

The government of Japan set aside approximately R68 billion for the cost of reconstruction after the nuclear disaster. In South Africa, the current regulations set the level of liability for a nuclear accident at Koeberg at a ridiculously low rate of R2.4 billion” continued O’Brien Onyeka.

Greenpeace has sent numerous letters from our lawyers requesting that the Minister complies with the law and updates the levels of financial security, taking into account the costs of Fukushima.

The Minister’s failure to apply her mind to update the levels of financial security means that the amount of money that nuclear license holders would be liable for in case there is a nuclear accident at any of the country’s nuclear facilities is woefully inadequate.

“The fact is, no amount of money is enough to fairly compensate for the human and environmental cost of a nuclear disaster.

Greenpeace’s decision to take the Minister to court is a reminder to government that South Africa is ill prepared for nuclear investments and should rather focus on solutions that can deliver today.

Through this court case, Greenpeace is demanding that the Minister of Energy gets her priorities right and abandons the nuclear expansion plans that have been plagued with irregularities.

Instead, the government should be focused on removing the barriers to renewable energy sources that are reliable and can immediately take South Africa out of its current electricity crisis” ended O’Brien Onyeka.

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We’re taking the Energy Minister to court: Greenpeace