International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Reviews Long Term Operational Safety at Koeberg

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  • An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts yesterday completed a review of long term operational safety at the Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in South Africa.
  • The review comes at a time when Eskom has controversially deferred the steam generator replacement at Koeberg Unit 2. Read more  
  • Eskom is carrying out a R20 billion life extension programme at the facility. Read more 

The SALTO (Safety Aspects of Long Term Operation) review mission was conducted at the request of the Government of South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy from 22 until 31 March. It focused on aspects essential to the safe Long Term Operation (LTO) of two units of Koeberg NPP, South Africa’s only nuclear power plant operated by the public utility Eskom.

Related news: South Africa’s nuclear regulator CEO resigns amidst Koeberg safety conroversy and 2500MW new build programme

Unit 1 went into commercial operation in 1984 and Unit 2 in 1985. Eskom is planning to extend operation of the units by 20 years until 2045 for a total operational lifetime of 60 years each. The plant is currently carrying out a periodic safety review to identify safety improvements for the LTO period.

One of six new 380-ton steam generators arrives at Koeberg nuclear power station in Cape Town for the plants life extension programme. Image
credit: Eskom

The ten-person team comprising experts from Argentina, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Pakistan, Spain, Sweden and two IAEA staff members reviewed the plant’s preparedness, organization and programmes for safe LTO.

Related news: South Africa’s nuclear legacy calls for a strong regulator and transparancy

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

About once a week a truck containing low to medium radioactive waste travels from Koeberg to Vaalputs in the Northern Cape. Here it is buried underground in sealed container drums. Image credit: National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute (NRWDI)

The team identified good practices and good performances that will be shared with the nuclear industry globally. The team concluded the plant had:

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

The team also provided recommendations and suggestions to further enhance the preparations for safe LTO, 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.

“We appreciate the IAEA support in plant ageing management and preparation for safe LTO,” said Riedewaan Bakardien, Eskom’s Chief Nuclear Officer. “The LTO of Koeberg NPP up to 2045 is a vital part of Eskom’s energy planning strategy. The results of this mission will help us finalize our activities for safe LTO in alignment with IAEA Safety Standards.”

The plant management said it was committed to implement the recommendations and requested that the IAEA schedule a SALTO follow-up mission to Koeberg NPP in 2024.

The team provided a draft report to the plant management at the end of the mission. The plant management and the South African National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) will have an opportunity to make factual comments on the draft. A final report will be submitted to the plant management, the NNR and the Government of South Africa within three months.

“The government continues to exercise policy oversight aimed at ensuring the successful implementation of the safe LTO programme and the IAEA’s support is very much appreciated in achieving this objective,” said Katse Maphoto, Chief Director of South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal


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