The Koeberg Alert Alliance’s Peter Becker has accused Eskom of lying about the risks and safety around its Koeberg nuclear power station in Cape Town.
Speaking to ENCA, Becker said Eskom’s claim that there are no risks associated with the Koeberg power station is patently false.
Recent earthquakes around Cape Town raised concerns as to whether Koeberg can withstand bigger quakes.
Koeberg was designed to withstand earthquakes up to 7.5 on the Richter scale thanks to giant built-in shock absorbers made of neoprene.
The design was adequate when the construction of the power station began in 1976, but the newly discovered Table Bay fault, which is closer to Koeberg, has raised concerns about its safety.
The Council for Geoscience confirmed the discovery but reassured the public there was no evidence to suggest the new fault is active or posed a seismic threat.
Becker, however, said this new discovery cannot be ignored and raised concerns about the structural integrity of Koeberg.
He said nuclear plants are unique in that radiation alters the atomic makeup of materials close to the reactor, leading to an effect called embrittlement which compromises the mechanical strength of the structure.
He added that it is not known what the state of the neoprene shock absorbers was considering they are so close to the sea.
Becker further highlighted that Eskom has conducted and submitted a seismic hazard study to the national nuclear regulator, which looked into what the risks at Koeberg are.
This study is kept secret, however, which raises questions as to whether Eskom is hiding important information about the safety of Koeberg from the public.
What is of particular concern to Becker is the plan to extend the 40-year lifespan of Koeberg by another 20 years.
Koeberg has already completed 36 of the 40 years of its original design life, but Eskom plans to extend this by a further 20 years with replacement generators.
The first three generators are to be installed at Unit 1 between February 2021 and June 2021, while the next three will be added at Unit 2 between January 2022 and May 2022.
Becker said the benefits and risks of keeping Koeberg running should be carefully evaluated before deciding to extend its design lifespan.
Eskom said it is aware of all potential seismic risks to the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station and is comfortable the facility has been designed to withstand an earthquake of up to 7.0 on the Richter scale.
“Improvements to increase the resilience of the station have been added over the years, and these follow lessons learned from recent nuclear incidents elsewhere,” Eskom said.
“There is no basis to the assertion that Eskom has said there is no seismic risk to Koeberg.”