Earthlife Africa hits out at Eskom over Koeberg

Environmental group Earthlife Africa on Monday attacked power utility Eskom’s lack of clear identification and disclosure of the problems at South Africa’s only nuclear power station, Koeberg.

Electricity supply in the Western Cape was disrupted four times in November last year—on November 11, 16, 24 and 25.

At present, one of the two reactors is shut at the Koeberg station and Eskom isn’t disclosing what the problem is, Earthlife Africa spokesperson Maya Aberman said.

“There was also a problem with the reactor at Christmas Day,” she added.

However, Eskom spokesperson Carin de Villiers said that neither of Koeberg’s two reactors has had problems, but one of two generators has.

The one unit was shut down on Christmas Eve when the generator started to give problems, De Villiers said.

The nature of the generator problem is unclear and is being investigated, she added.

Eskom isn’t hiding what the problem with the generator is and the power utility will hold a media conference to explain what is wrong with the generator at a future time, De Villiers said.

People from within Eskom as well as representatives from Alstom, the manufacturer of the generator, and French power utility EDF are dealing with the problem, De Villiers said.

The problematic generator is currently being stripped to find out the exact nature of the problem, she added.

“A cloud of confusion hung above the nuclear power station as various sources gave differing and unconfirmed reasons and explanations for the problems being encountered,” Earthlife Africa said in a statement.

“It is not very comforting that Eskom has a ‘good idea’ of what the problem is but then refuses to disclose their idea, given the risk faced by Cape Town residents were anything to go seriously wrong at Koeberg,” the environmental organisation added.

The City of Cape Town has admitted that there are no emergency evacuation procedures in place to deal with Cape Town’s four million inhabitants, Earthlife Africa said.

Newspaper reports have indicated that workforce capacity at Koeberg might not be what it should be, the grouping said.

“It is a shock that 10 years into our democracy, at a time when transparency and accountability are being emphasised by the highest echelons of South African government, that Eskom, a parastatal, continues in its tradition of secrecy and non-disclosure,” Earthlife Africa said.

Earthlife Africa said it is most disappointed about the stance that Eskom has taken on informing the public about events at Koeberg.

“The lack of information and the laid-back attitude of the parastatal, ‘not going to say at this stage’, smacks of apartheid-regime tactics and is typical of the way the nuclear industry has operated since its inception as part of apartheid’s nuclear weapons programme.

“It seems as if Eskom may be self-regulating. Should this be allowed in our new era of transparent democracy?” Earthlife Africa questioned.—I-Net Bridge

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