South Africa’s nuclear regulatory body, National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) said on Tuesday that it had received two Nuclear Installation Site License (NISL) applications from Eskom, one for Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape and another for Duynefontein in the Western Cape. Both applications were received on March 10th.
The NNR said that both applications were received in accordance with Sections 20(1) and 21(1) of the NNR Act and mentioned Eskom’s intention to construct and run number nuclear power reactors and associated auxiliary nuclear installations of a plant type and technology not yet identified
Eskom had been undertaking environmental impact assessment (EIA) at potential nuclear sites, with the Duynefontein property, near Cape Town, already housing the two-reactor Koeberg plant, the only nuclear power station in South Africa with a capacity of 1800MW. The Thyspunt site located in Oyster Bay locality in the Eastern Cape was initially a greenfield site.
The final EIA report that recommended Thyspunt as an ideal site for the nuclear plant was forwarded to the Department of Environmental Affairs on February 24th, for further action. A Ministerial determination published in 2013 indicated South Africa’s proposal to build up to 9600MW of new nuclear capacity.
The government had pointed out that it would release a request for the proposals before the end of March pending several intergovernmental agreements with nuclear vendor countries with bids expected from Canada, china, France, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the US.
Gino Moonsamy, the NNR communications and stakeholder relations manager said the organization would carry out a 45-day due diligence of the applications to ascertain compliance and conformity with stipulated regulations and guidelines and whether they should be approved for further additional technical assessments and also get public view.
According to Eskom group executive for generation Matshela Koko , the NNR had indicated that it would need close to 24 months to determine on the NISL applications.
The applications will however be rejected and differed back to the applicant in the event that the NNR finds noncompliance.
The Department of Energy performed the oversight role in the nuclear procurement process, while Eskom is the majority owner and operator of all nuclear power plants and therefore mandated to obtain all necessary licenses and permits, including the NISL licenses.
Once the successful nuclear vendor has been decided upon, an application for the nuclear installation license will be initiated. Additional regulatory requirements associated with the project would also apply. These include water-use permits, rezoning approvals and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa authorizations.
NNR senior manager standards, authorizations, reviews and assessments Orion Phillips said that the licensing process involved a chain of steps, starting with a thorough review and safety assessment involving a risk evaluation of potential hazards.
A statement from the NNR gave an assurance that any authorization would adhere to highest levels of safety in conformity with international standards. Additional developments on the proposed projects would be keenly tracked through Government Gazette and updates on the same published on the NNR website.
The project has experienced oppositions from some corners with the Southern African faith Communities’ Environment Institute initiating legal actions against the procurement process while local community-based groups like Thyspunt Alliance formed to oppose the construction of any new nuclear power stations.