Koeberg proposes storage facility

Location alternatives considered for the Transient Interim Storage Facility (TISF) build on Koeberg.

Eskom wants to store radioactive waste in 160-shipping container-sized “casks” on a site just smaller than two rugby fields, 1.5km from Duynefontein, according to an environmental impact assessment report.

The depleted uranium would be kept in “safe dry storage casks” protecting it from “accident conditions”, said a Koeberg manager, Lewis Phidza.

“The facility would be big enough to “accommodate the used fuel generated at Koeberg up to the end of the operational life of the plant”.

Mr Phidza said Koeberg had been in operation since 1984, and spent fuel from its two reactors was currently stored underwater in pools to cool it before it was loaded into dry storage casks.

“Currently, used fuel assemblies are stored in four dry storage casks in the existing Cask Storage Building at the plant,” said Mr Phidza.

According to the environmental impact assessment report by SRK Consulting, a mining and geotechnical consulting firm, the dry storage casks would be made from either metal or concrete and would be about 6m in height and 3m in diameter.

The casks would be strong enough to withstand significant external impact, such as an aircraft crash.

The casks, which would be above ground, would either be welded or bolted closed for leak tight containment and surrounded by inert gas. Each cylinder would be surrounded by additional steel, concrete, or other material to provide radiation shielding to workers and the public.

The report says between one and 20 hectares of indigenous vegetation, mostly low coastal shrubs, would have to be cleared for the facility.

“Given the limited footprint of the project infrastructure and the disturbed nature of the site, none of these adverse impacts are considered unacceptably significant and can be managed to tolerable levels,” said the report.

It rated as “low” predicted health impacts “associated with radiation exposure” during the operation of the nuclear waste facility, which would be ringed by a “secure” perimeter fence and have “controlled access” to meet National Nuclear Regulator requirements. The facility would also be “built and managed in accordance with the International Atomic Energy Agency safety standards”.

Koeberg Alert Alliance spokesman, Peter Becker, said his only concern with the storage of nuclear waste was that it was a temporary measure, and he questioned where it would go eventually.

“It is a real problem, nowhere in the world has it been solved, and this highlights the problem of building new nuclear plants, because we haven’t solved the problem of getting rid of old nuclear waste,” he said.

“It’s all good and well building a storage facility if nothing goes wrong, but if something does go wrong, there will be vast consequences. The risk may be small, but the consequences are big and there is no good answer on what to do with the waste.”

Melkbosstrand Ratepayers’ Association chairwoman, Smokie La Grange, said the association had no objection to the plan, as Koeberg had had a similar facility at the plant “for years” and the application to build more storage casks was “advance preparation for future nuclear build”.

She added: “We are very good neighbours with Koeberg and Koeberg is very good neighbours with Melkbosstrand. The ratepayers have no objection to the build.”

The storage facility would be needed in 2019. Construction, the cost of which will only be known once bids have been received, was expected to take a year, said the impact report.

The public comment period will end on Wednesday December 14 and residents who would like to access the EIA report and have their say should visit www.srk.co.za/en/koeberg-tisf-eia