06 September 2007

Experts will decide on nuclear information

Two expert referees will decide what information should be released to the public about Eskom's nuclear Pebble Bed Modular Reactor development, the Supreme Court of Appeal held.

Judge-President Craig Howie made an agreement between Eskom and Earthlife Africa (ELA) on how a request for information over South Africa's nuclear energy programme must be handled an order of the court.

Representing ELA, Open Democracy Advice Centre spokeswoman Alison Tilley said Eskom's records on the development would now be referred to expert referees.

"They are going to look at the records and read them and make a decision around whether it should be released or not."

The referees will compile a report on what could be released as public interest, which would be handed to a court.

If no party challenged the findings of the referees' report it would be final and information as recommended would be made public.

The ELA appealed a high court judgment which denied it access to Eskom's board meeting minutes about the development of a Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) demonstration model at Koeberg.

The environmental lobby group launched an application in 2005 for information under the Access to Information Act. The high court ruled against them.

Tilley said the benefit of the Bloemfontein court's finding was that ELA would now know exactly what documents there were and what they contained.

She said a better decision could now be made on what information must be public knowledge. "Up to now we did not know what documents there were."

ELA Cape Town campaign coordinator Maya Aberman, who attended the hearing, said she was pleased with the finding.

"Today's judgment moved us closer towards accessing the information we try to have. We welcome that step closer."