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Nuclear row gets heated as axed activist fights Mantashe in court

Energy minister Gwede Mantashe is being sued after the suspension of a National Nuclear Regulator board member who also works with a civil society group fighting against the lifetime extension of the reactors at Koeberg, outside Cape Town. File photo.
Energy minister Gwede Mantashe is being sued after the suspension of a National Nuclear Regulator board member who also works with a civil society group fighting against the lifetime extension of the reactors at Koeberg, outside Cape Town. File photo.
Image: Bloomberg

Safety concerns about SA’s nuclear power station look set to take centre stage during a high court showdown between energy minister Gwede Mantashe and prominent anti-nuclear activist Peter Becker.

Becker this week filed his affidavit in a fightback against Mantashe, who earlier this year axed him from the board of the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR).

Mantashe accused the activist of “misconduct” for his anti-nuclear comments, notably in a magazine interview shortly before the minister appointed him as a director at the regulator.

Becker has previously also raised concerns about Koeberg nuclear power station outside Cape Town, as well as about Eskom’s proposal to situate a second nuclear power station at Koeberg or Thyspunt near St Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape.

Energy minister Gwede Mantashe faces a court showdown over his decision to axe anti-nuclear activist Peter Becker from the National Nuclear Regulator board.
Energy minister Gwede Mantashe faces a court showdown over his decision to axe anti-nuclear activist Peter Becker from the National Nuclear Regulator board.
Image: Bloomberg

In his affidavit, Becker says Mantashe’s decision was not only irrational but motivated by his desire to silence critics of SA’s nuclear power programme.  

Becker said his anti-nuclear stance was well-known at the time of his appointment as the sole civil society member of the NNR board. His active role in civil society was precisely the reason he had been appointed in the first place.

“The ulterior motive and purpose was to get rid of a director who may raise challenging questions concerning nuclear energy in SA, and in that context concerning the extension of Koeberg’s lifespan and other nuclear projects,” he said.

Becker told TimesLIVE on Friday: “The minister appears to have discharged me because I am not neutral with regard to the desirability of nuclear power in SA, but has taken no action against other directors who have expressed strong pronuclear views.”

Mantashe’s spokesperson, Natie Shabangu, confirmed Becker’s dismissal in March.

“The department is in the process of appointing a member of the board and an alternate member to represent communities which may be affected by nuclear activities. This process is expected to be concluded in due course,” Shabangu said. 

TimesLIVE


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