Koeberg is safe, says regulator

2011-03-16 13:01

The National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) today confirmed Eskom’s assertions that its Koeberg nuclear power plant near Cape Town can withstand both earthquakes and tsunamis.

“The NNR can confirm that the Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant design structure provides a reasonable assurance of its ability to withstand external events such as earthquakes and tidal waves of a magnitude which are considered likely in the vicinity of the plant,” said NNR spokesperson Gino Moonsamy in a statement.

Eskom assured MPs yesterday that the plant was safe.

“The Koeberg power plant is designed to withstand an earthquake of a level 7 on the Richter Scale (occurring at the plant) and an 8 metre high tidal wave,” Moonsamy said.

The assurance comes after an explosion of the Fukushima Nuclear reactor in Japan following a massive earthquake and tsunami in that country.

“The NNR understands that the initiating event leading to the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Plant was the total loss of power supply (both from loss of the grid and internal diesel generators back up supplies) which occurred as a result of the Tsunami (flooding) and this interrupted the cooling of the reactor core, leading to the subsequent release of radiation to the environment,” Moonsamy said.

In case of a total loss of power supply, Koeberg has developed a set of severe accident management guidelines which would mitigate the consequences of such an unlikely event, Moonsamy said.

“In terms of a total loss of electrical power supply (as happened at Fukushima) the operators at Koeberg are regularly trained and examined to cope with such an event. In this regard, Koeberg is equipped with steam-driven cooling pumps and (protected) water supplies which operate in the absence of electric power. These could be run until a controlled shutdown is achieved.”

Moonsamy said even if nuclear fuel damage were to occur in the reactor, Koeberg was equipped with hydrogen re-combiners which do not require electrical power supply.

“This should ordinarily prevent the explosion experienced at the Fukushima Daichi plant due to hydrogen build-up. Given the location of the diesel fuel and diesel air intakes at Koeberg, it is considered that even a 10m high water level would not cause the emergency diesel generators at Koeberg to fail as was the case at Fukushima.”

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