Tag Archive | Koeberg Power Station

Budget cuts “a threat to nuclear safety”, says nuclear regulator

With such an important mandate as nuclear safety and nuclear oversight as their responsibility, Adv. Boyce Mkhize, CEO at the office the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR), told parliamentarians that the authority had been underfunded by Treasury in the current Budget to the tune of some 25% for this and the next  two years, which fact he maintained “threatened the nuclear safety of the country”.

He was addressing the portfolio committee on energy on the NNR strategic plan and expenditure budget for the coming year, stating that the mission statement for the NNR was to “provide and maintain an efficient and regulatory framework for the protection of persons, property and the environment against nuclear damage”.

He called on Parliament to bring forward to government’s attention the underfunding by National Treasury, saying that as South Africa went forward into a new era involving the application of  its soon to be chosen nuclear applications there had to be appropriate funding available for the regulator to “do the job properly”.

“I cannot say for sure that we can discharge our duties in terms of nuclear safety for South Africa in terms of the appropriations we have received. In terms of the projects we are involved in and the responsibilities we have, the situation is far from satisfactory.    Projects that need oversight are not only new nuclear installations and replacements but the rehabilitation of old mining areas to protect workers and inhabitants, overview projects which never might see the light of day”.

Adv. Mkhize the NNR’s goals were an effective regulatory oversight; to strengthen stakeholder relations and to enhance the NNRs corporate image communicating with the public on issues of nuclear safety.   At the same time the NNR had to ensure its own financial viability and sustainability.

This is, he said, NNR could not do without a human resource capital budget for the kind of trained staff that the authority needed.    Already, he said, the NNR had exceeded expenditure in terms of the appropriation allowed for.

The NNR was an important pillar in the South African nuclear framework and the continuing work that is going on and about to happen governing the use of nuclear technologies was essential, Adv Mkhize said.

“NNR shall continue as well to police and be accountable to government by ensuring that production of nuclear materials and matters relating to national nuclear technology are not deployed into any areas that do not include the peaceful and safe use of nuclear energy and in observing international agreements.”

“We have also to engage with the public to educate them on issues regarding the disposal of nuclear waste, deal with matters relating to inspections and enforcement of regulations that are set and to monitor in the interests of national security and safety.”

On issues ahead, Adv Mkhize said that key projects in 2013 included oversight of the replacement steam generator replacement at Koeberg; the provision of a nuclear usage manual for South African applications, which was about to be launched by NNR regarding regulatory standards on the use of nuclear technology, and the continued assessment of risk management.

Other matters relate to the handling the rehabilitation of such derelict mining areas such as Wonderfonteinspruit and many other areas in South Africa involving old mines which were of danger to public safety in nuclear terms.   Early engagements on South Africa’s future nuclear programme, given the generic name by Adv. Mkhize as “New Build”, had already started. Part of this had been to monitor the disaster at Fukushima, from the time it occurred and to apply lessons learned to the South African situation. There had been close co-operation between South Africa and the International Atomic Energy  Agency (IAEA on the post-Fukushima learning curve.

Adv. Mkhize told parliamentarians that at Koeberg, Eskom has undertaken exercises on future disaster scenarios, bearing in mind the low lying positions of both the Koeberg and Fukushima standby diesel generating plant, this issue having been resolved at Koeberg, despite completely different geological conditions.

Scenarios regarding breakdowns of systems and supply have been investigated and a full report from Eskom is was currently in the hands of NNR, Adv Mkhize confirmed.

In answer to questions, Adv. Mkhize said that Koeberg as a nuclear generating plant in its new form would probably have another thirty years life. He confirmed that it had been decided that the replacement of the steam generator system at Koeberg  was a “do-able” exercise and NNR was looking forward to its involvement in the start of this programme, once the permission to start was provided.

Adv. Mkhize said that the establishment of an independent nuclear laboratory for the NNR was another most important part of the oversight process but this was also affected by budget restraints.

The energy portfolio committee undertook to assist the NNR in its appeal for further funds, provided that NNR provided Parliament with a clear justification for the additional sums needed, over and above the budget allocated by National Treasury.

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