27 July 2008 Leave a comment
Koeberg nuclear power station north of Cape South Africa suddenly shuts down reactor Nr 2 last week – and four days later Nr 1 reactor also gave the ghost.
Yet most worryingly, nobody knows why…
Johannesburg – July 26 2008 — Eskom has shut down both reactor units producing a combined 1800Mw of electricity. They have ‘recalled’ all their staff (from what they didn’t say) and they are now working overtime in shifts, the South African power supplier said on Friday. Koeberg is located about 30km north-west of Cape Town’s city centre along the Atlantic coastline of South Africa. The nearest town’s border is Atlantis, which borders it.
It has been running at only about 83% of its total capacity over the past three years anyway and they are struggling to get qualified personnel because of the Mbeki-regime’s black-economic-empowerment laws.
Koeberg is the only nuclear powerstation on the entire African continent and was built by French contractors during the apartheid-era.
Its average electricity production over the last three years has been 13,668GWh – about 5% of the country’s total electricity needs. Since its opening in 1984, it has used up seven and a half tonnes of uranium.
"The nuclear reactor side of the units have not been affected and will be kept in safe and stable condition," read ESKOM’s none too reassuring, very vague statements issued after the first breakdown. It takes at least three weeks normally to get the nuclear reactors back up to speed.
The loss of output from this aging, French-built nuclear power station’s capacity is expected to cause massive blackouts especially in the city of Cape Town and the rest of the Western Cape. "Eskom will do all it can to mitigate the increased vulnerability during this period. This includes increasing the use of the two new open cycle gas turbine stations in the Cape," said Eskom.
No further explanations about exactly what technical faults they are trying to correct have been forthcoming from ESKOM at all.
However two of the same era nuclear reactors in France have only recently suffered radiation leaks which may, experts believe, either be caused by aging or inherent design faults which are only being discovered now.
Koeberg claims on its website that it expects the power station to operate for another 30 to 40 years at least.
Koeberg’s ‘ cousin plants ‘ in France – built by the same state-owned company — now are experiencing serious technical problems which have been causing radiation pollution of their surrounding environment.
The French nuclear giant Areva yesterday confirmed there had been a radioactive leak from a ‘broken pipe’ at its nuclear fuel plant in south-eastern France — only a week after a uranium spill at another of its plants had also polluted the local water supply.
- What is particularly worrisome, is the fact that these plants were being maintained by some of the best nuclear and electrical engineers in the world.
Underground liquid uranium pipe may have ruptured several years ago – but nobody had noticed…
Yet the newly discovered leak at the Romans-sur-Isère plant in the Drôme region came from a damaged pipe which safety authorities said might already have ruptured a number of years ago – indicating a design or aging-fault which could have serious repercussions for all these French-built nuclear plants.
Areva, a French state-controlled firm which makes nuclear reactors and deals with uranium, said the leak came from a buried pipe transporting liquid uranium and that the crack in the tubing was "several years old".
- Areva is also responsible for running the Tricastin power plant, in the nearby Vaucluse area, where a uranium leak occurred last week when a tank was being cleaned. Drinking well water, swimming and water sports in the area were banned, as well as irrigating crops with the potentially contaminated water. Both leaks ranked as level-one incidents on the seven-point scale of nuclear accidents.
Koeberg power station cleans with seawater which then is pumped out into the Atlantic ocean again.