Nuclear Regulator

The Nuclear Energy Act makes provision for the buying and selling of nuclear fuels, processing of nuclear waste, and so forth. All of these activities have to be controlled and regulated by a central body, and that is the function of the National Nuclear Regulator, established in terms of its own statute, the National Nuclear Regulator Act 1999.1

The Act also provides for the management and staffing of the Regulator, as well as safety standards and regulatory practices for the protection of persons, property and the environment against nuclear damage. It applies to the siting, design, construction, operation, decontamination, decommissioning and closure of any nuclear installation; vessels propelled by nuclear power or having radioactive material on board which is capable of causing nuclear damage; and any action which is capable of causing nuclear damage.2

The Minister of Mineral Resources is ultimately, responsible for the Act.

A. Licences and authorisation for installations and vessels

  1. Any person who sites, constructs or operates a nuclear installation3 without a nuclear installation licence commits an offence.4

  2. It is also an offence to decontaminate, or decommission an existing nuclear installation without a specific licence.5

  3. Any vessel propelled by nuclear power which:
    • anchors or sojourns6 in the territorial waters of the Republic, without a specific licence, commits an offence;7 8
    • enters any part of the Republic without a specific licence also commits an offence.9
  4. Any vessel which has on board any radioactive material capable of causing nuclear damage commits a criminal offence if it :
    • anchors or sojourns in the territorial waters of the Republic; or
    • enters any port of the Republic, without the authority of a specific licence.10
  5. If you engage in any activity capable of causing nuclear damage without a certificate of registration or certificate of exemption from the Nuclear Regulator, you commit an offence.11

  6. When the Nuclear Regulator issues a licence or a certificate of registration it can impose conditions relating to the protection of property, persons and the environment and the rehabilitation of sites. It is a crime to fail to keep to the conditions.12

  7. The Nuclear Regulator can impose a variety of special conditions relating to the licence for a vessel which is nuclear powered or has radioactive material on board. These conditions may include, for example, liability for nuclear damage. The master of the vessel in question commits a criminal offence if he fails to comply with any such condition.13

  8. Fees are payable to the Regulator in respect of any application for the granting of authorisation, and for an annual authorisation. It is an offence to fail to pay these fees.14

B. Inspectors

Suitably qualified inspectors are appointed to enforce and oversee compliance with the objectives of the Act. They have wide powers of entry, examination, inspection, removal of documents or things, issuing directives, and so on.

  1. Any who person who fails to comply with any directive or order issued by an inspector commits an offence.15

  2. Any person who hinders an inspector in the exercise of his powers, or the performance of his functions under the Act commits an offence.16

C. Safety measures

  1. It is a crime to enter any premises which are under the control of the Regulator without authorisation.17

  2. It is a crime also to enter any premises which the Regulator has identified as premises where information is kept relating to the safety and security of a nuclear installation, without authorisation.18

  3. The Regulator can also make (or cause to be made) arrangements for the protection or security of its property, or property under its control. It is a crime to contravene any such arrangements.19

  4. Such arrangements can also relate to property which is on any premises where activities of the Regulator are performed. It is an offence to fail to observe any such arrangement.20

D. Confidential information

  1. Information relating to nuclear energy, nuclear power, nuclear weapons and so on is, for good reason, considered top secret.

  2. The following are all criminal offences in terms of the Act:

E. General

Over and above the specific offenses already referred to, the Act makes it a criminal offence to contravene or fail to comply with: - any provision of the Act; or - any condition, notice, order, instruction, directive, prohibition, authorisation, permission, exemption, certificate or document which has been determined, given, issued, promulgated or granted in terms of the Act.29

  1. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by Act 47 of 1999. 

  2. This means any injury to or the death or any sickness or disease of a person; other damage, including any damage to or any loss of use of property or damage to the environment, which arises out of, or results from, or is attributable to, the ionising radiation associated with a nuclear installation, nuclear vessel or action. See the definition in section 1 of the Act. 

  3. This is a facility, installation, plant or structure designed or adapted for (or which may involve) the carrying out of any process, other than the mining and processing of ore, (a) within the nuclear fuel cycle (b) including radioactive material. See the definition in section 1 of the Act. 

  4. Section 20(1) read with section 52(1)(a). 

  5. Section 20(1) read with section 52(1)(a). 

  6. The Act does not give a definition for this, but it will likely have its ordinary meaning of a ‘temporary stay’ – Concise Oxford English Dictionary. 

  7. It will be the vessel’s owner, master or captain who commits the offence. 

  8. Section 20(2)(a) read with section 52(1)(a). 

  9. Section 20(2)(b) read with section 52(1)(a). 

  10. Section 20(2) read with section 52(1)(a). 

  11. Section 20(3) read with section 52(1)(a). 

  12. Section 52(1)(a) read with section 23. 

  13. Section 52(1)(b) read with section 24. 

  14. Section 52(1)(d) read with section 28. 

  15. Section 52(1)(c) and section 52(1)(e). 

  16. Section 52(1)(e). 

  17. Section 42(2)(a) read with section 52(1)(f). 

  18. Section 42(2)(b) read with section 52(1)(f). 

  19. Section 42(1) read with section 52(1)(f). 

  20. Section 42(1) read with section 52(1)(f). 

  21. Except if authorised by the Act. See section 51(4) and section 51(5). 

  22. Section 51(2)(a) read with section 52(1)(g). 

  23. Section 51(2)(b) read with section 52(1)(g). 

  24. Section 51(2)(c) read with section 52(1)(g). 

  25. Section 51(2)(d) read with section 52(1)(g). 

  26. Section 51(2)(d) read with section 52(1)(g). 

  27. This does not apply if the disclosure is permitted by the Act – see the exemption in section 51(3). 

  28. Section 51(3) read with section 52(1)(g). 

  29. Section 52(2).