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Waste storage at Koeberg brimming

Issue described as a ‘ticking time bomb’ by anti-nuclear lobby group.
Signs prohibit entry to Koeberg nuclear power plant near Cape Town. Image: Reuters

Spent fuel storage at Koeberg nuclear plant will reach full capacity by April as state power utility Eskom awaits regulatory approval for new dry storage casks, the company said on Monday.

Storage of high-level radioactive waste is a major environmental concern in the region, as South Africa looks to extend Koeberg’s life for another two decades and mulls extra nuclear power plants.

Koeberg, Africa’s only nuclear facility, is situated about 35 km from Cape Town and was connected to the grid in the 1980s under apartheid.

“The Koeberg spent fuel pool storage capacity is currently over 90% full. (These) pools will reach (their) capacity by April 2020,” Eskom told Reuters in a statement.

Koeberg produces about 32 tonnes of spent fuel a year. Fuel assemblies, which contain radioactive materials including uranium and plutonium that can remain dangerous for thousands of years, are cooled for a decade under water in spent fuel pools.

Three years ago Eskom paid an estimated R200 million for an initial batch of seven reinforced dry storage casks from US energy company Holtec International to help keep Koeberg running beyond 2018.

Eskom now has nine new unused casks on site, each with an individual capacity of 32 spent fuel assemblies, with another five expected to be delivered soon.

“These casks are presently stored empty on the Koeberg site while Eskom is in the process of applying for a usage licence from the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR),” Eskom said.

The 14 casks should ensure there is sufficient storage in the spent fuel pool until 2024, Eskom said, ahead of a tender for an extra 30 casks.

The NNR said Eskom only had permission to store four dry casks at Koeberg and that the power utility had applied for a licence change request justifying the use of 14 additional dry storage casks.

“Eskom indicated that the safety case will be submitted to the NNR in 2020,” said regulator spokesman Gino Moonsamy.

Anti-nuclear lobby group Earthlife Africa said South Africa could not afford the social, environmental and economic costs associated with nuclear waste.

“We have a ticking bomb with high-level waste and fuel rods at Koeberg,” said Makoma Lekalakala, Earthlife Africa’s director.

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“Anti-nuclear lobby group Earthlife Africa said South Africa could not afford the social, environmental and economic costs associated with nuclear waste.

“We have a ticking bomb with high-level waste and fuel rods at Koeberg,” said Makoma Lekalakala, Earthlife Africa’s director.”

So Earthlife. Would you please enlighten us, as to why South Africa can not afford “the social, environmental and economic costs associated with nuclear waste”?

What do these costs include, and what do they add up to? Have you done a study? What evidence did you gather?

@Makoma Lekalakala
Why do you say “We have a ticking bomb with high-level waste and fuel rods at Koeberg”?
Is it because you believe the spent rods can blow up, is that why you chose to use the word “bomb” in your sensational statement?

I suggest Earthlife Africa goes and talks to an engineer that can explain to them how nuclear power works, what happens to the rods, how the spent rods are stored and what actual dangers can be associated with the spent rods.

Reminds me of some comments by some groups about how terrorists are going to use spent rods to make bombs.

#facepalm emoji

Seems to me nuclear is a great idea in theory and is naturally being pushed by the pro lobby. From where I sit, however, it appears that it’s not as ‘clean’ as its proponents would have us believe. There have been meltdowns in a number of nuclear plants – not only the famous ones like Chernobyl and Fukushima, but also in smaller pebble bed reactors. Then there’s the cost of disposing of radioactive material that can remain dangerous for thousands of years. For SA to benefit from further nuclear power would take at least 10 years. And it brings with it massive opportunities for corruption. Meanwhile, we have vast amounts of sunshine and wind power available right now, and the expertise to install it. Get that right, and the case for nuclear becomes less strong.

You do realise that pebble bed reactors cannot undergo meltdown right? I mean, you understand the physics, right?

OK, maybe ‘meltdown’ was too strong a term. But issues that have arisen with pebble bed reactors is that localised hotspots can form in the core with unexpectedly high levels of radioactive dust being formed. There was a pebble bed reactor accident in West Germany which released radiation to the environs, causing the W.German govt to close down the program because they found the reactor design unsafe. So it is not a ‘100% proven safe’ technology. Nuclear always has risks.

The nuclear thing as all about kick backs under the table. These ANC crooks do not give a frigging fish about the environment.

Anyone who gives a damn about the environment supports nuclear.

@pwgg

I honestly don’t think it has anything to do with the ANC not being worried about the environment. I’m not convinced they can find the word “environment” in the dictionary.

I believe the main two reasons for looking at nuclear is so they can sign deals with the Russians, the love for the hammer and sickle is strong with the ANC. But the main reason being, nuclear is by far the largest and most expensive power project you could wish to build in SA, so the bigger the project costs, the longer the building time, the more money to loot.

It’s all about the next state looting project, and it will make Medupi and Kusile look like child’s play.

I am not saying this is not going to be a looting spree for the ANC, they will try and sign deals with the Russians if they can and send this country into a debt hole we can’t even yet begin to comprehend, the current debt of Eskom will be made to look like child’s play.

What I am saying is please speak to energy experts and engineers who work in the energy field. There are more than just a couple of studies showing nuclear will be one of the biggest, if not the biggest energy source of the future. If you think this is not the case please provide scientific evidence. The nuclear hysteria is the same as the climate change hysteria at the moment. People who live by the coast can tell you the beaches front properties did not wash away and disappear as predicted throughout the 20th century by so many news reporters that have no expertise in the field of climatology.

I’m pretty certain there should be some space left for Koeberg’s waste, in the basement of Luthuli House!?

These people understand nothing.
The fuel pool, at the Koeberg site, is only used for temporary storage until the fission products decay to a more stable state, it is not long term storage.
Long term storage, is in lead-walled barrels, many meters underground at a different site.

Earthlife should leave themselves out of engineering matters, as they, just like the rest of the climate “debate” is m=purely emotionally driven.

And as for Eskom and it’s obvious incompetence, it should be privatised.

The whole energy debate gets so easily filled with emotions nowadays, and strong, polarised views, not facts.
Actually nuclear energy provoked for 50, 60 years already quite emotional reactions and unnecessary vilification. Except Chernobyl, and Fukushima, thanks heaven, most power stations have functioned with only minor incidents.
As this place is called Moneyweb, let’s keep ourselves besides the obvious safety and environmental issues focused on the bottomline. What costs electricity now, and in the foreseeable and most likely future from the different production methods? Over the whole lifecycle of its production plant, incl construction, financing, maintenance, fuel and decommissioning.
I tried to answer this a bit in my lengthy post below the article :www.moneyweb.co.za/news/africa/the-transition-from-fossils-to-renewables-and-its-impact-on-consumer-prices/#
Oh, and by the way the price on a PV solar project near LA, combined with batteries comes from Forbes, not exactly a loony leftist, green eco warrior website.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2019/07/01/new-solar–battery-price-crushes-fossil-fuels-buries-nuclear/#1d0d84fb5971
Although I am obviously in favour of renewables, I am nothing more than a nearly 70 yr old frrrt, that always have been very interested in technology, and kept a healthy but far from extreme interest in environmental matters for ages. Not an engineer myself. And not at all linked to any specific interest group or renewables industry player. As a youngster, backpacking with a GF in Southern France I visited the CSP plant near Font Romeu Odeillo, already in 1979.

Marcan, read your ref. article ‘New Solar + Battery Price Crushes Fossil Fuels, Buries Nuclear’ – very interesting. PV Power at 2 (U.S.) cents per kW. Now we’re talking.

Owners of anything other as nuclear love this warning stories. All arrows direct to their wallets.

The fact is, for the cheapest power South Africa needs to have most of its power, especially if we look to grow the economy with industry, coming from coal. We can look to see how it has enabled China and India to grow it’s economy.

I’m not saying wind, water and solar can’t be used in certain instances, but it will be a drop in the ocean compared to what industry needs.

4th industrial revolutions is wonderful and all, but in reality a small percentage of maybe 5-10% will take part in it in South Africa, at least for the next 20 years. The reality is that the vast majority of the youth are unemployed. Many of them did not finish school, of those that did don’t have any further education or skills and hence why it’s so difficult to employ them.

It’s sad to see, but millions of South African’s are being left behind as the world blows past us. Sadly our education has gone nowhere in decades and it seems the ANC wants to completely derail the medical profession in South Africa as well with NHI.

SA is doomed as long as the ANC rules…and many things point to it being a number of decades still. Those who think otherwise either live in a fool’s paradise (either by choice or by being misinformed), or they have facts that no one else has access to and if that is the case I plead with you, please share the good news with us.

@Iced Coffee, You are clearly not up to date with the rapid developments in the energy sector, and the present and most likely prices of electricity generated from renewables. Renewables have over the last 10, but especially last 5 years become cheaper than coal and nuclear. You never read my posts before or clicked on the links, like the one above in my other post.
Read my commenets below this article :www.moneyweb.co.za/news/africa/the-transition-from-fossils-to-renewables-and-its-impact-on-consumer-prices/#
Coal is the dirtiest and not the cheapest source of electricity by now.

End of comments.

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