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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
15 November 1999
CONSIDERATION OF THE NATIONAL NUCLEAR REGULATOR BILL [B 11B-99] AND THE NUCLEAR ENERGY BILL [B10-99]
The Committee debated and accepted the National Nuclear Regulator Bill and the Nuclear Energy Bill without amendments.
Before the committee considered the legislation clause by clause the chair asked the Members if they had any opening questions or comments.
One of the committee members questioned the classification of these bills as section 75 bills. He felt that it was wrong to think that nuclear energy does not affect the provinces. He used the example of the Western Cape Province, which has the only nuclear capacity in the country. The people in the Western Cape are aware and involved in nuclear issues since they are directly affected. The member pointed out that the intentions of the nuclear bills were good but the structure of them is not. In addition, the member raised the concern of medical nuclear waste. He felt that it was a very large problem which was being ignored in the bills. There has been no input at all from interested parties on this issue. He added that people have terrible perspectives of nuclear energy and they need assurances that they are safe.
Nuclear Energy Bill
The committee agreed to Clauses 1 to 16.
Some of the members were concerned with the use of the word "repeatedly" in Clause 17(1)(a). Some felt that "repeatedly" makes it unclear how many times a director has to fail to perform his duties before s/he can be dismissed. In addition, one member pointed out if an employee was responsible for a serious nuclear accident; they would be covered under this clause because they only did it once. Dr de Waal, from the Department of Minerals and Energy, explained that in this case the Minister would have to make a judgement on whether or not the director should be dismissed. He told the committee that the Department had looked at the clause and they were satisfied.
One member pointed out that if the Clause 17(1)(a) is read in context with the other clauses then it eliminates the problem.
The chairperson pointed out that the members must remember the principles of due process. If an individual does something small once, they should be given a chance to change. He suggested amending the clause to use the term "gross efficiency" to cover the members' concerns.
Some members still were not happy with the clause. The committee debated on trying to find a middle road between having a serious misconduct and a pattern of misconduct. They finally decided to leave the clause with no amendments.
The committee agreed to Clauses 18 to 25.
While referring to Clause 26, one member asked if there are any provisions for when a certain piece of land is expropriated for the purpose of a corporation is not being used anymore then it can be returned to its original use. The member used the example of the Atomic Energy Corporation, which fifteen years ago in the South Coast proclaimed a piece of road along the coast line and sold it after a few years to a foreign investor. The land was lost to South African investors. He asked if something could be written in the bill so this would not happen again. The chairperson explained to the member that if the state acquires land from farmers and they are no longer using it, it goes back to the original owners. This is a provision of the Agriculture Act. Dr de Waal explained that there is little chance that a scenario like that would occur again. The member told the committee that he can imagine that land has been sold under provisions like 26(e) to Eskom to built power lines over farms and once they have stopped using them, they are not dismantled but left on the land. His explained that his point is that land is not restored. The chairperson agreed that they would look into the problem.
The committee agreed to Clauses 26 to 33.
A member was concerned that in Clause 34 all that was needed was the acceptance of the Minister when dealing with nuclear waste. The member thought that there should be some sort of impact revision. He indicated that waste is a big problem, especially for third world countries which often get left with other countries' waste. The chairperson told the member that South Africa never accepts other countries' waste and they do not allow ships to carry waste into their waters. Dr de Waal further explained that there is a provision in Clause 46 that brings in other Ministers. The member was pleased with these explanations.
The committee agreed to the rest of the clauses in the Nuclear Energy Bill. They formally accepted the legislation with no amendments.
National Nuclear Regulator Bill.
The committee agreed to Clauses 1 to 48.
A member asked about the agreement between the Minister and the Board in Clause 49. He wanted to know who will be advising the Minister since s/he is not likely to be an authority on nuclear regulation. In addition, he wanted to know how s/he can disagree with the same people s/he appointed. Dr de Waal explained that the Minister has experts within the Department. The member then asked if the Minister has experts why they are not regulators. Dr de Waal answered that the staff's responsibilities surround policy issues.
The chairperson pointed out that there are very many strong safe guards in this bill, there is always consultation with local governments and other Ministers. He felt that if they tried to change something in this clause it would upset the balance put in by the National Assembly. The committee agreed.
The committee agreed to the final clauses of the bill and formally passed the National Nuclear Regulator Bill with no amendments. The committee decided that there was no need to debate the bill or have the Minister attend the committee.
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