Nuclear build 'needs tougher regulator'
THE National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) would have to be strengthened to cope with SA's planned nuclear build, CEO Boyce Mkhize said at a briefing yesterday on safety at SA's nuclear facilities.
Following Japan's Fukushima Daiichi crisis last year, the regulator established a task team to review the regulatory processes and regulations governing SA's two main nuclear facilities: the Safari-1 reactor at Pelindaba, which is a research facility, and Koeberg power station.
Mr Mkhize said SA's nuclear installations were "adequately designed, maintained and operated to withstand external events considered in the original design base".
"Preliminary indications show we will have to increase technical capacity by 50%," said Mr Mkhize. "Budget-wise, this means a proportional increase." He did not say how much. The Treasury has allocated the regulator R30,9m for 2012-13, and R31,6m for 2013-14.
The government's integrated resources plan makes provision for an additional 9500MW of nuclear power by 2030. According to the plan, which directs the expansion of the electricity supply over the next 20 years, new nuclear capacity can come on stream in 2023.
"The NNR directed the operators of nuclear installations in SA, Eskom and the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa), to perform safety assessments . considering the lessons learnt from Fukushima," said Mr Mkhize.
The reports were submitted in December last year.
The NNR' s special project manager, Peter Bester, said Koeberg's safety assessment included external events such as seismic incidents, tsunamis, flooding, explosions, high winds, station blackout, loss of offsite power and an aircraft crash.
While "the safety assessment meets the NNR directive and is consistent with international best practice", improvement measures were identified, such as upgrading on-and off-site communications, improving seismic robustness, improving emergency lighting and constructing a robust portable equipment storage facility, Mr Bester said.
Mr Mkhize recommended that SA perform a full self-assessment of all emergency planning and research infrastructure to ensure areas surrounding nuclear facilities were prepared in case of an incident.
Questions have been raised as to whether a full evacuation of Koeberg would be possible in a short time. Mr Mkhize said it was but "the ability to evacuate people from around Koeberg requires the slowing down of population growth in the area".
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