South African electricity utility Eskom insisted on Tuesday that the Koeberg nuclear power station, located in the Western Cape, is not affected by manufacturing anomalies that have afflicted the French nuclear industry this year, resulting in several reactor outages.
The State-owned company reports that it received “official correspondence” from nuclear technology vendor Areva, of France, on August 3 confirming that Koeberg’s two reactors were not affected by the historical anomalies. Koeberg employs a French pressure-water reactor design developed by the predecessor to Areva.
Areva was also awarded a contract by Eskom in 2014 to supply six replacement steam generators for Koeberg. The R4.3-billion contract is currently the subject of a legal dispute, with Westinghouse Electric Company challenging the award to Areva. The Supreme Court of Appeal ruled in 2015 that Eskom’s tender committee acted unlawfully by taking account of considerations not included as adjudication criteria in the original tender. The matter is currently before the Constitutional Court.
Eskom made the assurances regarding Koeberg following recent shutdowns by Electricite de France (EDF) of 18 of its 58 reactors. The shutdowns were undertaken as a precautionary measure following a regulatory inspection of EDF’s Flamanville construction site, in northwestern France, which indicated that certain components might have left the forging facility at Le Creusot with flaws.
French nuclear regulator ASN has, to date, inspected ten reactors and five more will be inspected within the next few months. Three reactors are undergoing additional inspections and analysis before EDF decides how to proceed.
Eskom nuclear projects GM Sedick Davis said in a statement that the utility had used technical detail provided by EDF to analyse components at Koeberg, as well as those currently being manufactured for plant upgrading and maintenance.
Areva is producing components for the Koeberg steam-generator replacement programme at its Chalon/Saint-Marcel plant, in France, as well as under sub-contract with Chinese engineering group Senpec.
“The conclusion is that the Koeberg plant is not affected by the historical manufacturing anomalies that require additional inspections and verification,” Davis said.
He noted that the components at Koeberg were also manufactured using a casting rather than a forging process, while pre-service and in-service inspections have shown up no flaws.
“Historical records also show no anomalies or inconsistencies,” Davis said, while adding that any new information would be analysed as it arose.
“The Eskom analysis and treatment of this matter is subject to national and international scrutiny by all stakeholders, thereby giving assurance to the South African public that the Koeberg plant remains safe.”
The Koeberg statement comes as Eskom prepares to issue a request for proposals to nuclear vendors for a highly contested new nuclear build programme, which is already the subject of a legal challenge.
In fact, the Cape Town High Court would, on December 13, hear a challenge brought by Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute against government’s nuclear procurement process. The applicants argued that the procurement process is shrouded in “secrecy and misinformation”.