OUTA (Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse) is urging South Africans to participate in South Africa’s proposed nuclear build, following what it calls a “dubious move” by Eskom in inviting participation in a regional gazette where it could have been overlooked.
The organisation has condemned both the placement of the notice, and the very short deadline allowed for public participation.
“On the 8th of August 2016, Eskom surreptitiously slipped under the public participation radar a critical gazette regarding nuclear procurement, which would have enabled them to acquire licenses to build two new nuclear plants without proper public scrutiny,” OUTA states.
“This is a dubious move as, in law, if the public fail to comment on a gazette it is deemed to constitute acceptance of the proposal, and thus cannot easily be challenged legally at a later stage.
The National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) and Eskom placed a notice to license new nuclear construction sites in the Eastern Cape Provincial Gazette, rather than the National Gazette, and shortened the deadline for participation to below the 30 days, as required by law, says OUTA.
Eskom applied for a site licence to develop a nuclear reactor/power plant at Thyspunt (near Jeffreys Bay) and at the existing Koeberg (Duynefontein) nuclear site.
Public participation is an essential part of the legalisation process for this element of the nuclear build program.
“This move negates the spirit and constitutional rights for the public to participate in decisions that affect them,” OUTA says in a statement. “OUTA believes that this covert move occurred because the players thought if the public did not notice, they could slip the gazette through unchallenged.
“OUTA finds it critical that as many members of the public as possible should comment.”
The organisation has set up a participation portal and made it easy for the public to submit comments on Gazette (at this link www.outa.co.za/nuclear), before the 29 August deadline.
“It is important to note that Gazette comments are not the same as petitions,” OUTA explains. “Government has the obligation to demonstrate they have taken account of all gazette comments made by interested and affected parties, before forging ahead with their action.
“Failing to do so, Government faces the possibility of a legal challenge at a later stage. However, if the public fail to comment, then no legal challenge will be possible.”