From sea to tap water

2017-04-18 06:00
Eskom has revealed its plans to install a desalination plant at the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station (KNPS). PHOTO: MONIQUE DUVAL

Eskom has revealed its plans to install a desalination plant at the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station (KNPS). PHOTO: MONIQUE DUVAL

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Cape Town - As concerns over the ongoing drought continue to mount, Eskom has revealed its plans to install a desalination plant at the Koeberg nuclear power station.

The plans for the desalination plant were announced by the power station’s manager, Velaphi Ntuli, during the station’s most recent public safety information forum meeting.

He said the decision to install a desalination plant was a result of the current water shortage experienced in the Western Cape.

This, Ntuli said, would be the only effective plant contribution to the current and possible future water crisis in the region.

“Koeberg already has a useful water infrastructure and associated permits in place for ground water desalination. Modern technology makes ground water desalination much more cost-effective than in the past, which makes this an easy decision to make.”

Ntuli said a decision had been made to fast-track the implementation of a desalination plant soon after the City of Cape Town declared level 3 water restrictions.

Representatives of Eskom have confirmed that Koeberg previously had a desalination plant but it was taken out of service many years ago due to operational reasons. It is currently not economically feasible to refurbish and recover this facility, they say.

According to Ntuli, Koeberg used about 1 370 kilolitres of potable water per day for its operations. However, he said thanks to the type of nuclear technology deployed at Koeberg, most of the water required for cooling purposes came from the Atlantic Ocean and very little fresh water was used for drinking and other purposes.

“Koeberg uses about 7m kilolitres of seawater per day, so the fresh water usage of 1370 kilolitres is low in comparison.”

He explained the desalinated water would be used fully for the benefit of plant operations and some targeted buildings that were considered to be part of the plant system.

Ntuli confirmed that for operational and practical reasons, the new desalination plant would be mobile and have features that would allow for easy upgrading and modernisation that would possibly be considered at a later stage.

The project was split into two phases and Ntuli said in order to ensure that the desalination plant was installed as soon as possible, the first phase would be a simplified mobile unit.

He further clarified that the second phase (when needed) would focus more on the strengthening and integration of the desalination plant with other systems to increase its capacity.

Speaking during the March meeting, Ntuli also indicated that Eskom had been in talks with the City about the municipality’s plans to have its own desalination plant on the Koeberg site.

“Eskom has agreed to fully support the City’s water initiatives in any way that the utility can be able to do so. The City’s pilot plant will not have any known negative impact on the operation of Koeberg,” he said.

Xanthea Limberg, Mayco member for informal settlements, water and waste services, and energy, says the City is currently considering a small-scale modular reverse osmosis (RO) desalination plant with a capacity of between 2.5m and 5m litres per day. The source will be seawater.

“The plant is a pilot plant with the ability to feed the bulk water distribution system. Depending on the results and the water needs, the plant may be upgraded or relocated. Two locations are currently being considered along Cape Town’s north-western coastline. The location will be confirmed during the current design process.”

Limberg says they envisage that a large-scale desalination plant (for 150 to 450m litres per day) will be implemented in accordance with the City’s water needs and the planned small-scale desalination plant will provide useful data and information for designing the larger plant.

“Because of good planning, we are in a great position to bring forward, in a responsible manner, emergency supply schemes such as drilling down to the Table Mountain group aquifer, a small-scale desalination plant and a R120m small-scale water reclamation plant at the Zandvliet water treatment works.”

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Read more on:    eskom  |  cape town  |  drought  |  water

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