National Nuclear Regulator Amendment Bill: DMRE briefing; with Deputy Minister

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

09 April 2024
Chairperson: Ms T Modise (ANC, North West)
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Meeting Summary


The Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy held a virtual meeting to be briefed on the National Nuclear Regulator Amendment Bill [B25B-2023].

The Chairperson explained the purpose of the meeting, which was being held despite the parliamentary recess. The Deputy Minister provided an overview of the Bill, emphasising its alignment with international standards and expanded regulatory powers.

The Department's presentation gave details of the proposed amendments to the National Nuclear Regulator Act of 1999, which aimed to enhance regulatory oversight and align with international practices. Discussion ensued, with Members seeking clarification on various aspects of the bill.

Responses from Department officials addressed the questions and concerns raised by Members. Closing remarks expressed gratitude for collaboration and well wishes for the future. The meeting concluded with a reminder of the next session on 16 April.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed the Members and the Deputy Minister, as well as the officials from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), led by the Director-General. She explained that although they were on recess, they had scheduled the meeting due to the numerous bills pending before the Committee.

Dr Nobuhle Nkabinde, Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, conveyed an apology on behalf of the Minister, Mr Gwede Mantashe, who was unable to attend due to another commitment. She was present to represent the Department.

Ms L Bebee (ANC, KZN) proposed adopting the agenda and apologies.

Mr M Magwala (EFF, Western Cape) commented on the consistent absence of the Minister from Select Committee meetings, expressing his lack of surprise at seeing the Deputy Minister present instead. He requested clarification on which apologies were being acknowledged, and stressed the importance of clarity to prevent unexpected issues during the minutes.

The Chairperson said that apologies had been received from Ms C Labuschagne (DA, Western Cape) and the Minister, noting the presence of the Deputy Minister and Director-General in the meeting.

Mr Magwala thanked the Chairperson for the clarification.

Mr Z Mkiva (ANC, Eastern Cape) seconded the motion to adopt the agenda and acknowledge the apologies.

Deputy Minister’s overview

Dr Nkabinde said that the Department's presentation would cover the proposed amendments to the National Nuclear Regulator Act of 1999, providing the context and reasoning behind these amendments. It would include an overview of the public hearings conducted by Parliament, as well as the objectives and provisions of the bill.

She introduced the Director-General of the Department, Mr Jacob Mbele, supported by Mr Gift Nhlapo, Chief Director of Policy, and Mr Zukile Zibi, Director of Nuclear Policy, along with the technical team. She said the Director-General would lead the presentation, and delegate detailed information as necessary.

She concluded by expressing gratitude for the opportunity to present before the Committee.

DMRE briefing on the National Nuclear Regulator Amendment Bill [B25-2023]

Mr Jacob Mbele said he would quickly provide background information on the presentation before handing over to Mr Nhlapo to delve into the details of the bill's objectives and provisions.

The proposed amendments aimed to align the National Nuclear Regulator Act of 1999 with revised international regulatory practices, particularly those coordinated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Cabinet approved the bill on 24 May 2023 and submitted to Parliament on 25 August of the same year.

Mr Mbele outlined the parliamentary engagement process, stating that public consultations had been conducted by the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy between September and October. He said 29 written submissions had been received and analysed, in addition to oral hearings held in December. The bill was adopted by the National Assembly on 26 March, leading to its presentation before the Committee.

Mr Mbele handed over to Mr Nhlapo to provide further details and changes proposed in the bill.

Mr Nhlapo said that the main objective of the bill was to amend the National Nuclear Regulator Act of 1999. This legislation regulated nuclear activities within the country and aimed to align with international regulatory best practices, particularly those set forth by the IEAE. The bill seeks to expand the scope of the regulator's powers to encompass additional regulatory functions, while also introducing requirements related to security, safe rehabilitation, decommissioning issues, and penalties for non-compliance.

He clarified that the presentation aimed to provide a high-level overview, with detailed amendments to follow in subsequent slides.

Clause 1

When referring to Clause One, it was important to note that they referenced the numbering on the left side of the bill, while the section pertained to the actual content within the bill itself. For instance, Section One of the principal Act addressed definitions, and Clause One of the Amendment bill seeks to amend this section to align with the best practices of the IAEA. This amendment also entailed adding and removing certain definitions that may have become obsolete.

Clause 2

This clause seeks to amend Section Two of the Act concerning the application of the Act and the regulation of nuclear installations. The main focus of the amendment under Section 2, subsection 1A, was to expand the application of the Act to include activities such as site evaluation, manufacturing of component parts, and extended shutdowns.

To provide some context, he said that previously, the Act applied to various activities related to nuclear installations, including their siting, design, construction, operation, decontamination, decommissioning and closure. However, activities such as site evaluation and manufacturing of component parts were not explicitly covered. Therefore, these amendments aimed to ensure that these activities fell under the scope of the Act, requiring authorisation for their undertaking to maintain safety and regulatory standards. The amendments proposed in the bill aimed to broaden the scope of the National Nuclear Regulator Act of 1999 and align it with international regulatory best practices.

Section 21(c), for instance, was proposed for deletion and replacement to expand the regulator's oversight to unregulated radiation sources. Section 21(g) seeks to extend the regulator's oversight to cover National Defence Force facilities and equipment, ensuring their safe release for civilian use.

Section 21(e) 62 aims to safeguard individuals exposed to cosmic radiation, while Section 21(f) formerly 21(c), was expanded to cover any activity capable of causing nuclear damage.

Section 2 was amended to establish the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) and align terminology with best practices. New provisions like 2(e) exclude regulation over foreign naval vessels invited into the Republic.

Section 22(f) excludes nuclear security matters covered under the Nuclear Energy Act of 1995.

Section 2-3 empowers the regulator to recommend that the Minister declare facilities as nuclear facilities.

Section 3 aligns with public finance management, while Section 5 revises the objects of the regulator to include protection against harmful effects of radiation, aligning with international practices in nuclear safety, security, and safeguards.

(See attached document)

The presentation provided a detailed analysis of the proposed amendments to the National Nuclear Regulator Act.

Mr Mbele stressed the importance of reminding Members that the amendments served several key purposes. Firstly, they aimed to align the Act with international regulatory practices. Secondly, they sought to empower the NNR to carry out its functions effectively. Thirdly, they introduce requirements for operators to allocate funds for rehabilitating or decommissioning nuclear facilities. Lastly, administrative fines are proposed to manage non-compliance within the industry. These objectives underscore the overarching goals of the proposed changes to the legislation, ensuring alignment with international standards and enhancing regulatory oversight.


Mr M Nhanha (DA, Eastern Cape) raised several important points regarding the proposed amendments. Firstly, he inquired about the tenure of the board, which had been extended from three to five years, and asked whether this change was aligned with international practices regarding the tenure of similar boards in other countries. He questioned whether consideration had been given to including individuals from other countries on the board who may possess skills not readily available locally.

Further, he raised a query about the advisory role of the regulator in emergency situations and whether the regulator planned to charge for these advisory services.

Mr M Magwala (EFF, Western Cape) expressed gratitude to the Department for their comprehensive presentation, and thanked the Deputy Minister for attending the session. He would like to know more about the objections raised during the public hearings regarding the bill. Despite this, he said that the EFF supported the bill.

Ms W Ngwenya (ANC, Gauteng) focused her questions on the proposed amendments outlined in the bill, particularly those regarding expanding the regulator's powers and functions. She inquired about specific examples of these expanded powers. Moreover, she sought clarification on extending the tenure of the chairperson of the board and directors from three to five years, as well as the consequences for repeat offenders who did not comply with the act. She asked for examples of the penalties the bill seeks to impose on licence holders, and questioned whether the position of chief financial officer (CFO) was new, and why it was only now that the CFO had to become a member of the board.

DMRE's response

Mr Mbele responded to some of the raised points. He addressed Mr Nhanha's inquiry regarding the skills sought for the board, mentioning the Department's approach to ensure a diversified skills mix, and stating that consideration was given to all applicants, including those from other countries.

Regarding the role of the regulator in emergencies and whether they would charge for services, he explained that while the regulator's role was oversight and ensuring compliance, they typically did not charge for their services. However, any additional costs resulting from emergency situations were borne by the licensee. He also discussed the extension of the tenure of similar boards, highlighting the need for continuity and minimising disruption to entity operations and strategies.

Mr Mbele deferred to his colleagues to provide examples regarding the expansion of the regulator's powers, the rationale for extending the tenure of office, the types of penalties for offenders, and the position of the CFO on the board. He emphasised the importance of referring to the relevant Portfolio Committee 's report for details on public hearings and comments received during the drafting of the bill.

Mr Zibi acknowledged that many questions had already been addressed. He proceeded to touch on several key points, starting with the tenure of sports boards, compared to other jurisdictions. He said that while some jurisdictions extended the tenure up to ten years for security of tenure, most regulatory entities settled on a five-year period, aligning with strategic planning cycles.

Regarding the expansion of regulatory powers, he provided an example concerning oversight of defence force facilities and land for civilian use. He illustrated a scenario where a lack of oversight had led to the release of contaminated scrap material, which emphasised the need for regulatory assurance in such situations.

Addressing questions about the penalties for repeat offenders, Mr Zibi said the proposed amendments aimed at introducing a graded approach to fines, based on the severity of the non-compliance. Repeat offences may lead to criminalisation, aligning with Section 52 of the principal act, which outlines offences and penalties.

He said the inclusion of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) as a board member was aligned with corporate governance practices and best practices observed in regulatory bodies.

He summarised the feedback from the public participation processes, noting that while there were some concerns about clarity and scope, overall, the participants supported the proposed amendments. He concluded by expressing appreciation for the support for the bill.

Deputy Minister Dr Nkabinde commented that the document presented during the public hearings had been clear, leading to unanimous support for the proposed amendments from all stakeholders. Emphasising the expansion of the regulatory powers, she highlighted its aim to ensure effective functioning of the regulator in compliance with international obligations, particularly those set by the IAEA. She underscored that the bill sought to strengthen the regulatory framework for nuclear safety to protect people, property and the environment from the harmful effects of radiation and nuclear damage. She concluded by affirming that the bill was progressive and responsive to the sector's needs and international best practices.

The Chairperson expressed gratitude to the Director-General and the Deputy Minister for addressing all the questions from Members. She commented that the lack of further questions indicated the Members' satisfaction with the presentation and the Department's responses.

In conclusion, she suggested it might be the Committee 's last meeting and expressed her willingness to hear any additional comments.

Ms Ngwenya expressed gratitude towards the Department, and acknowledged that this would likely be the Committee 's last meeting in the Sixth Parliament. She thanked the Department for their collaboration throughout the parliamentary term, noting that they had consistently provided satisfactory responses to the Committee 's questions. She concluded by thanking the Department for their responses during the meeting.

Closing remarks

Deputy Minister Dr Nkabinde expressed appreciation to the Chairperson and Members of the Select Committee for their support for the portfolio and the Department. She said they did not view the Committee 's questions negatively, but rather saw them as empowering throughout the term of the sixth administration. She also acknowledged the constructive criticism and guidance provided by the Committee , which had helped them to improve.

She extended her well wishes to everyone involved in the portfolio and the Select Committee as they approached the seventh administration, expressing gratitude for the positive journey of working together.

Ms L Beebee (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) expressed gratitude to the Chairperson and the Committee , thanking them for taking the Department seriously and listening to their presentations attentively. She appreciated the humility shown by the Department when receiving feedback. She also extended thanks to the Department and the board for their contributions, expressing appreciation for the opportunity to address the Committee.

Mr Nhanha, on behalf of the DA, thanked everyone for the opportunity and reflected on the transformation of their relationship from strangers to colleagues. He emphasised the cooperation received from the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy under the leadership of the Chairperson, expressing appreciation for the journey and the privilege of serving alongside individuals of such calibre. He concluded by extending blessings to all.

Mr Magwala expressed gratitude and appreciation to everyone. He highlighted the misconception that only principals spoke, emphasising the importance of bills and collaboration between spheres of government. He thanked the Deputy Minister for his support and acknowledged the learning experience during his tenure. He commended the Department for its comprehensive approach and positive interactions. He expressed optimism for the future, hoping for continued success under the leadership of the EFF after 29 May.

The Chairperson expressed gratitude to the Members, the Deputy Minister, the Director-General and their team. She conveyed appreciation to the Minister for their collaboration with the Select Committee. Reflecting on their journey, she noted the initial challenges and subsequent growth through constructive criticism and teamwork. She acknowledged the DMRE's role in the Members' personal development and understanding of the Department's work. She extended well wishes to the Minister and Deputy Minister for the upcoming administration.

Committee matters

The Committee could not adopt the minutes due to the lack of a quorum. The agenda item was moved to the next meeting.

The Chairperson reminded Members of the next meeting scheduled for 16 April. She expressed appreciation for their commitment, despite other obligations.

The meeting was adjourned.


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