ATC110413: Report on Oversight Visit to Koeberg Nuclear Power Station on 26 January 2011
REPORT OF SELECT COMMITTEE ON LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISES ON OVERSIGHT VISIT TO KOEBERG NUCLEAR POWER STATION, DATED 13 APRIL 2011
The Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises undertook an oversight visit to Koeberg Nuclear Power Station on 26 January 2011. One of the mandates of the Committee is to oversee functions of the departments and entities which fall under the Committee. Departments overseen by the Committee are Labour, Public Enterprises and Communications. Eskom is one of the state-owned enterprises under the Department of Public Enterprises.
The Committee has therefore seen it necessary that it uses this opportunity to conduct an oversight visit to Koeberg Nuclear Power Station. The stationis the only nuclear power station on the entire African continent. Koeberg is owned and operated by the country's only national electricity supplier,Eskom. The two reactors at the station form the cornerstone of the South African nuclear programme.
The visit enabled the Committee to learn more about the operations of the plant and would therefore help members to enhance their ability to exercise their oversight function.
2. OBJECTIVES OF THE VISIT
During the presentation on the strategic plan of the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) which was held on 21 April 2010, the Committee was informed that in respect of energy and broadband enterprises, the DPE intended to ensure that Eskom, among other enterprises, achieved its target by the end of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period by monitoring and annually assessing its financial and operational targets set in the shareholder compacts. The DPE would also monitor the delivery and funding of Eskom’s build programme and take corrective action where necessary.
One of the priorities identified for oversight purposes (as per the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Strategic Framework Plan, dated 7 September 2009) was to focus on the development of economic infrastructure (e.g. roads, electricity and access to water). As a result, the Committee undertook to conduct an oversight visit to Koeberg Nuclear Power Station to ensure that its mandate is realised.
The delegation of the Committee was composed of Hon MP Themba (Chairperson and leader of the delegation), Hon MP Sibande, Hon MP Jacobs, Hon Z Mlenzana, Hon DB Feldman, Hon O de Beer, Hon HB Groenewald, Ms PH Sibisi (Committee Secretary) and Mrs B Soga (Executive Secretary).
On arrival the Committee received a presentation on how electricity is generated at a nuclear power station. Nuclear energy was at the time providing approximately 16% of the world’s electricity needs. Koeberg Nuclear Power Station is situated in the Western Cape and provides 6% of South Africa’s electricity needs.
Eskom uses various technologies to generate electricity, the combination of which is called the “plant mix”. The biggest portion of Eskom’s plant mix consists of coal-fired load power stations. These power stations use coal as their energy source and operate 24 hours a day to meet the demand of electricity. As Africa’s only nuclear power station, Koeberg is also a base load station with an installed capacity of 1 930 MW of power. Koeberg’s total net output is 1 800 MW.
The generation mix, which is an Integrated Resource Plan 2010 (IRP2010), is currently under development by government. This plan will determine the type of electricity generation technology that should be used, such as coal, nuclear, hydro, wind or solar. The generation mix further includes two conventional hydroelectric power stations and two hydro pumped storage schemes. These stations are used when there is a sudden increase (or peak) in the demand of electricity which cannot immediately be met by the base load stations. They have a combined installed capacity of 2 000 MW.
The last of the present mix are four quick-reaction gas turbine power stations with an installed capacity of 2 426 MW. These stations are used only at peak periods and during extreme emergencies due to their very high operating costs. The two smaller open cycle gas turbine stations use kerosene to power their engines, whereas the two new gas power stations run on diesel.
Eskom is constantly investigating the use of other forms of energy and renewable energy sources that can be used to expand its current plant mix. Various research projects are looking at other energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass.
In 2009, Koeberg celebrated 25 years of nuclear power in South Africa. The power station first supplied energy to South Africa in 1984, and has done so safely ever since. Koeberg is still the forerunner and is the foundation for the future of nuclear energy. Government has declared that South Africa will see more of nuclear energy in the future. This is based on the fact that Koeberg’s performance in terms of safety is of the highest standard. Koeberg prides itself on safety.
4.1. Operating methods
Koeberg operates on three separate water systems. The water is also known as the coolant. The fact that the three systems are separate is important because it means that the water in the reactor, which is radioactive but in a closed system, does not come into contact with the other two systems and therefore does not contaminate the water in the other systems. Koeberg uses a three-loop system, namely primary, secondary and tertiary loops.
4.2. Components of Koeberg Nuclear Power Station
Koeberg consists of the following components: A reactor, steam generators, a pump, a pressuriser, a high-pressure turbine, a low-pressure turbine, a generator and a condenser.
4.3. Site visit
The delegation was shown around the plant. The following sections were visited:
· Turbine Floor
Koeberg’s steam turbine retrofit increases power and extends the plant’s operating life. The nuclear power plant has operated reliably for more than two decades. However, with planned refuelling outages scheduled for this year and 2012, South Africa's electric utility, Eskom, is planning to make use of them to retrofit the steam turbines. This will deliver increased power output from the plant as well as extend its operating life.
· 19m Level Outside Control Room
The equalisation tank, which is 19m high, is meant to eliminate contaminant spikes. It is provided with new instrumentation to improve control of the pumpout.
· Sea Water Pump House
The sea water is used for cooling the helium gas.
· Low-Level Waste Storage Building
Low-level waste (LLW) shipped from nuclear plants includes solid waste such as contaminated clothing, exhausted resins, or other materials that cannot be reused or recycled. The LLW is compressed into the steel drums. Most anti-contamination clothing is washed and reused. However, as with regular clothing it eventually wear. In some cases, incineration or super-compaction may be used to reduce the amount of waste that has to be stored in the special landfills.
Previously, all LLW was sent to South Carolina, Utah or Washington. Federal law requires all states to be part of regional compacts. The compact concept is based on one or more states in the group acting as a host state. For many years there was considerable delay in states coming to an agreement. As a result, there was little progress in the actual construction of waste storage facilities. Most LLW is stored on site in buildings designed to accommodate at least five years of storage.
· Emergency Control Waste
Koeberg has a series of lines of defence to ensure safety:
· Safety codes require independent off-site sources of power. Koeberg has the national grid plus a dedicated powerline to the three gas turbines at Acacia, near Monte Vista/Edgemead.
· Should these off-site sources fail simultaneously, the codes require independent on-site power sources. Koeberg has two diesels dedicated to each reactor, which is the French standard, plus a fifth "swing"' diesel, which can be connected to either reactor. By design, the five diesels are entirely independent.
· Any one diesel can supply sufficient emergency power for one reactor, including its associated spent fuel pool.
· Should all the diesels somehow fail, the auxiliary feed-water system (AFS) will continue to cool the core. It is steam-driven by heat still being generated in the shut-down reactor and does not need electric power. After a minimum of 10 hours of operation, the AFS water supply may have to be topped up, and this can be done by various means.
· If these standard procedures fail, emergency procedures maintained in the Koeberg control room and the technical support centre detail many other"non-standard" ways of injecting water into the reactor or, just as effectively into the steam generators.
Eskom strives to minimise the impact of its operations on the environment. Continued internal and external audits are conducted to ensure compliance. Samples of fish, meat, vegetables, milk, water and grass are regularly collected from the area around Koeberg and analysed to determine any possible effects on the food chain.
Koeberg Nuclear Power Station should provide the Committee with its staff complement with a clear indication of the number of women, people with disabilities and racial classification.
Report to be considered.
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