IAEA Concludes Long Term Operational Safety Review at South Africa’s Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts has completed a review of long term operational safety at the Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in South Africa.

The Pre-SALTO (Safety Aspects of Long Term Operation) review mission was requested by the Government of South Africa’s Department of Energy.

Koeberg is South Africa’s only nuclear power plant. It consists of two units and is operated by the public utility Eskom. Unit 1 went into commercial operation in 1984 and Unit 2 in 1985. Eskom is planning to extend operation of the units by 20 years for a total operational lifetime of 60 years each. The plant is currently carrying out a Periodic Safety Review to identify safety improvements for the Long Term Operation (LTO) period.

During the 3-11 September mission, the SALTO team focused on aspects essential to the safe LTO of both units. SALTO reviews are based on IAEA safety standards.

The team found staff to be professional, open and receptive to suggestions for improvement.

“We observed that despite many challenges and delays, the plant has made progress in ageing management activities and preparation for safe LTO since the first Pre-SALTO mission in 2015,” said team leader Robert Krivanek, a Senior Nuclear Safety Officer at the IAEA. “The SALTO team encourages Eskom and the plant management to address findings made by the SALTO team and to implement all remaining activities for safe LTO.”

The team – comprising 10 international experts from Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Japan, France, Romania, Sweden, United Kingdom, USA and two IAEA staff members – identified good performances that will be shared with the nuclear industry globally, including:

  • A water chemistry programme implemented in line with IAEA safety standards, supporting ageing management for safe LTO.
  • A surveillance programme to monitor reactor vessel embrittlement under operation for all relevant plant conditions, including LTO.
  • The use of a simulator of mechanical, electrical, chemistry and radiation protection processes to improve staff performance and plant safety in these areas.

The team also provided recommendations for further enhancing preparations for LTO safety, including that Eskom should:

  • Empower plant management and staff with all necessary mandates and processes, including adequate resources to achieve safe LTO in a timely manner.
  • Adequately plan and implement impressed current cathodic protection (ICCP) of the reactor containment, including tests with a mock-up to further improve corrosion prevention.
  • Develop and implement a knowledge management programme.

“We appreciate IAEA support of our plant in ageing management and preparation for safe LTO,” said Riedewaan Bakardien, Eskom’s Chief Nuclear Officer. “The LTO of Koeberg NPP up to 2045 is a vital part of Eskom’s energy planning strategy. The results of this mission will help us to finalize our activities for safe LTO in alignment with IAEA safety standards.”

The plant management said it was committed to implementing the recommendations and requested that the IAEA schedule a SALTO mission to Koeberg NPP in September 2021.

The team provided a draft report to the plant management at the end of the mission. The plant management and the South African Nuclear Regulator (NNR) will have an opportunity to make factual comments on the draft. A final report will be submitted to the plant management, the NNR and the Government of South Africa within three months.

Background

General information about SALTO missions can be found on the IAEA Website. A SALTO peer review is a comprehensive safety review addressing strategy and key elements for the safe LTO of nuclear power plants. They complement Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) missions, which are designed as a review of programmes and activities essential to operational safety. Neither SALTO nor OSART reviews are regulatory inspections, nor are they design reviews or substitutes for an exhaustive assessment of a plant’s overall safety status.

LTO of nuclear power plants is defined as operation beyond an established time frame determined by the license term, the original plant design, relevant standards, or national regulations. As stated in IAEA safety standards, to maintain a plant’s fitness for service, consideration should be given to life limiting processes and features of systems, structures, and components (SSC), as well as to reasonably practicable safety upgrades to enhance the safety of the plant to a level approaching that of modern plants.

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