International Atomic Energy Agency Gives Koeberg Stamp of Approval

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s peer review mission of the Safety Aspects of the Long-Term Operation (SALTO) took place at the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station on 22 – 31 March 2022.
  • The IAEA team of nuclear professionals from eight countries reviewed the safety aspects of Koeberg’s Long-Term Operation (LTO) to extend the life of the power station by 20 years, including preparedness, organisation, and programmes for safe operation.

“We observed that staff at the plant is professional, open, and receptive to suggestions for improvement. Despite challenges, the plant has eliminated several deviations in ageing management activities and preparation for safe LTO since the Pre-SALTO mission in 2019. The SALTO team encourages Eskom and the plant management to address findings made by the SALTO team and to implement all remaining activities for safe LTO,” said team leader Gabor Petofi, a Senior Nuclear Safety Officer at the IAEA.

The IAEA team identified Koeberg good practices and learning points that will be shared with the nuclear industry globally, including:

  • Integrated corrective action programme to extensively consider operating experience for long term operation.
  • Template to collect vital importance parameters from the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to establish the extended qualified life of electrical components.
  • The so-called capability index applied to characterize health, attitude and other enablers of staff members to qualify if they are fit to perform a task.

The team also provided recommendations and suggestions to further enhance the preparations for LTO safety, including that Eskom should:

  • Comprehensively review and implement all plant programmes relevant for long term operation.
  • Complete the revalidation of qualification of cables in the containment for the long-term operation period.
  • Ensure full functionality of the containment structure monitoring system.

The IAEA visit to Koeberg, at the invitation of the Department of Minerals & Energy (DMRE), was part of Eskom’s preparations for the safe extension of Koeberg’s operating life. In order to execute the LTO safely, Eskom has performed benchmarking exercises with other utilities around the world, and requested the assistance of international nuclear safety review bodies, among others the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO), the Institute for Nuclear Plant Operators (INPO), and the IAEA.

The IAEA offers a service to its members specifically for long term operation and looks at the safety aspects of long-term operation (SALTO), which entails detailed reviews of, amongst others, ageing management of mechanical, electrical, and civil systems, structures and components, knowledge management, as well as human resources.

The final mission report will be submitted to the plant management, the NNR and the Government of South Africa within three months.

Koeberg management is committed to implementing the recommendations and requested the IAEA to schedule a follow-up mission to Koeberg Nuclear Power Station during 2024.

“The IAEA has previously completed two Pre-SALTO missions, which prepared the station for the work needed to safely extend Koeberg’s operating life. What was particularly pleasing to note in this 2022 review is the feedback from the IAEA that Koeberg has made significant improvements and have closed the gaps identified during the Pre-SALTO Missions,” said Riedewaan Bakardien, Eskom’s Chief Nuclear Officer. “We note there are some recommendations and suggestions for further work to be done, and we are treating all of them as urgent to assure that Koeberg will be successful on this journey to extend the plant life by 20 years.”

In his statement, Mr Katse Maphoto, Chief Director: Nuclear Safety and Technology of the Department of Minerals and Energy, emphasised the strategic importance of Koeberg LTO from national energy security and grid balance point of view. “The government remains optimistic that the LTO project will benefit a lot from this IAEA mission recommendations for the power station to achieve the highest level of safety that is on par with the best practices globally,” said Maphoto.

“Eskom has incorporated some IAEA standards and guides into its policies and procedures, with a robust framework having been put in place for the life extension,” said Bakardien. “There has been significant progress on the LTO, and today we are well set on the path to extending Koeberg’s life. We commit that we will attend to the recommendations and suggestions that came out of this IAEA mission.”

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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