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Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has confirmed three incidents of leakage of radioactive waste at Koeberg nuclear power station between 2014 and 2015. Answering a parliamentary question posed by the Freedom Front Plus, Gordhan said that the quantities of leaked radioactive material were “negligible” and “there was no impact to staff, members of the public or the environment”.

All three incidents were reported to the National Nuclear Regulator and reviewed by Koeberg to identify the causes and take corrective action. “Assessments concluded that the maximum amounts of radioactivity that could have been released were well below any regulatory limit and did not require a response or notification of the public,” Gordhan said.

Old Koeberg leaks confirmed

Koeberg Nuclear Power Station Photo by Bjorn Rudner

The assessments found that in May 2014 and October 2015 small quantities of water with very low radiation levels were released into the ocean without adequate monitoring as a result of defective equipment. In November 2015, a small quantity of air was released from the containment building directly to the atmosphere without going through the monitored path.

According to Koeberg’s General Manager, Velaphi Ntuli, the radiation activity levels in each case “were determined to be very low and well within the regulatory requirements”. Gordhan told parliament that releases of radioactive waste into the environment are closely monitored and have to respect regulatory limits.  “Any release that is unmonitored is taken seriously and would be treated as a leak or spillage of radioactive waste,” he said.

Freedom Front Plus MP Corne Mulder was not satisfied with Gordhan’s response, asking  what caused Koeberg’s systems and equipment to deteriorate to such an extent that three leakages occurred in just two years. “The party is worried that a possible loss of expertise at Koeberg could be detrimental and will, thus, address further questions to the minister. Only the best experts should be at the helm of things at a nuclear power plant like Koeberg,” Mulder said.

“The party will keep a close eye on the situation to ensure that all irregularities and/or leakages are communicated to the public at once, no matter how insignificant they may seem. The public is entitled to be informed.”

The original question was posed to Gordhan after a right wing vlogger, Willem Petzer, posted a video citing much bigger leaks at the nuclear power station. The video has since been removed as a result of a number of inaccuracies.

Eskom responded to the video in a statement, saying: “Eskom has noted with concern irresponsible allegations made by a Mr Petzer in a video recording where he alleges that there have been nuclear safety breaches at Koeberg power station. Eskom can confirm that Koeberg is currently running both units safely and producing 1960 MW into South Africa’s power grid.”

Image credit: http://www.eskom.co.za/AboutElectricity/VisitorCentres/Pages/Koeberg_Power_Station.aspx

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