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IAEA report on extending the life of the Koeberg nuclear plant lists issues to be addressed

A photo of the Koeberg power station

Photo by Creamer Media

24th October 2022

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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As a result of a Promotion of Access to Information Act application by the Democratic Alliance (the official opposition in the South African Parliament but the ruling party in the Western Cape province), the full International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safety Aspects of Long Term Operation (SALTO) report on South Africa’s Koeberg nuclear power plant (NPP) has been made public. The IAEA SALTO mission visited Koeberg, which is located in the Western Cape, near Cape Town, from March 22 to March 31 this year. The visit and inspection were at the invitation of Eskom.

On the conclusion of that mission, the IAEA had issued a press release, dated March 31, and reported on by Engineering News on April 1. In that press release, the IAEA reported, in high level and general terms, the strengths and weaknesses the SALTO team had found at Koeberg. With the release of the report, it is now possible to see what the specific issues were.

“[L]ong term operation (LTO) is defined as NPP operation beyond an established time frame originally set out in the operating licence, design limits, standards or regulations,” explained IAEA director-general Rafael Mariano Grossi in his foreword to the report. “The review is neither a regulatory inspection nor an audit against national codes and standards. Rather, it is a technical exchange of experience and practices at the working level aimed at strengthening the programmes, procedures and practices implemented at the nuclear installation.”

As a result of their inspection, the SALTO team raised 15 issues with Eskom. These were (in the order given in the IAEA report): LTO programme management was not effective to finish LTO preparation actions in time; inadequate updating of the safety analysis report for LTO and ageing management; a failure to ensure that the scope setting for structures, systems and components (SSCs) for ageing management was complete and consistent; lack of comprehensive review and implementation of plant programmes for LTO; lack of consistent management and documentation regarding information used for the ageing management review of mechanical SSCs; incomplete ageing management programmes for mechanical SSCs; a comprehensive cable ageing management programme had not been completely implemented; environmental qualifications for some SCCs had not been revalidated for LTO; incomplete assessment of electromagnetic compatibility; LTO qualified cables had not had their environmental qualification revalidated; incomplete implementation of a proactive approach to technology obsolescence management; time limited ageing analyses for concrete structures had not been comprehensively revalidated; the monitoring system for the containment structure was not fully functional; and, incomplete development and incomplete implementation of ageing management programmes for civil structures.

On the other hand, the IAEA also cited “good performances”. These were: extensive consideration of operating experience for LTO, by means of an integrated corrective action programme; the creation of a template to collect, from the original equipment manufacturers, "vital importance parameters” to ascertain the extended qualified life of electrical components; and the creation of a ‘capability index’ to characterise staff members’ health, attitude and other factors, to ensure that they are fit to perform tasks.

“The [SALTO] team found the plant staff to be professional, open and receptive to proposals for improvement,” noted the IAEA report. “The mission team observed that plant management is committed to improving plant preparedness for LTO. Walkdowns showed the plant to be in good condition.”

The report also pointed out that Koeberg management had “expressed a determination” to address the issues raised by the SALTO team. The NPP management had also expressed an intention to invite a follow-up SALTO inspection, to be conducted in 2024.    

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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