DA calls for greater transparency over Koeberg’s life extension

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Kevin Mileham MP

Koeberg’s operating license runs out in July 2024 and Eskom has still not succeeded in extending its life span to ensure safe, reliable long-term operation. If the project is not completed and the license is not renewed by the July deadline, Eskom will be required to shut down the plant’s two reactors. Should that occur, it would plunge South Africa into an even greater load-shedding crisis than we are currently experiencing. As it is, extended shutdowns of each reactor (consecutively) will be needed over the next 12 to 18 months to ensure the necessary upgrades and maintenance for ongoing operational safety.

The DA had previously called for the involvement of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as early as last year, and submitted a request for short-term technical assistance, seeking expert advice from the Agency to work alongside Koeberg’s engineers and finalise the life extension project. Not long after, the IAEA not only confirmed that this project was in serious danger but formally offered to assist in getting it back on track – provided that the Minister, the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR), and Eskom requested and accepted such assistance.

In July of this year, the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, rejected this offer of much needed and urgent expert assistance from the world body overseeing nuclear energy.

We are no further along today, and, in fact, we are in an increasingly precarious position. With the life extension project dragging along and the odds of Eskom completing its efforts by the deadline next year waning, we must brace ourselves for further reactor shutdowns in the very near future, contributing to even more severe loadshedding.

The DA has already called on the government to reach out to the IAEA for expert assistance. We have already called upon the Minister, the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR), and Eskom to accept the IAEA’s first offer. Now, with so much time having passed, the need for the IAEA’s expertise is even greater.

We cannot afford to allow a project of this scale and importance to be conducted in secrecy and behind closed doors.

Considering the little time we have left and the urgency with which this matter needs to be dealt with, the DA calls upon the government, Eskom, and the NNR to approach the IAEA. We must not only seek their assistance in the implementation of the life extension project. We must also request another safety audit to be undertaken (considering that the last one took place more than a year ago), that regular inspections be done on the project’s progress, and that the IAEA will monitor and report on the project on a continuous basis.

Despite the ANC’s attempt at hiding the situation at Koeberg, with Eskom denying access to parliamentary oversight at the plant, the DA will continue to drive for greater transparency and accountability over this project. We will continue to press for
Members of Parliament to be allowed to conduct their constitutional obligation of oversight so that we can ensure that the life of Koeberg is not only extended successfully before the deadline, but that it is done so safely and under the watch of truly independent authorities.

Additionally, we call on the ANC government to make public all safety audit reports to ensure a transparent and accountable process is followed, so that the safety of Koeberg is not in doubt.

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