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Commentary: Safety claims over nuclear containment buildings

Claims by extreme anti-nuclear activists that there is cause for concern in the integrity of the outer concrete containment vessels at Koeberg nuclear power station in South Africa are nothing but deliberate scaremongering writes Kelvin Kemm.

Koeberg is internationally recognised as being one of the best run nuclear power stations in the world. The professionalism and competence of the staff are of the highest calibre and the public can have complete faith in their ability to run the power station to the highest standards.

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Koeberg is now approaching 40 years of continuous operation and is undergoing a standard life extension programme to extend its operating life for at least another 20 years.

After the life extension is completed it will run even more efficiently than it is now since new modern technology will enable it to improve performance even more.

As far as the foolish accusation concerning the outer concrete containment buildings is concerned, the truth of the matter is that after almost 40 years of being exposed to corrosive sea air and saltwater spray there has been some slight degradation of the outer concrete wall, as one would expect.

Koeberg engineers are well aware of this and perform standard maintenance continuously. Furthermore, they are in the process of adding modern cathodic technology protective measures.

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The standard nuclear operating procedure requires regular testing to take place. Tests are carried out at regular intervals during which the entire building is pressurised to a pressure twice that of a motor car tyre and no leaks have ever been detected.

In any event, these outer walls of concrete are only the last line of defence in case a major nuclear accident were to take place inside the buildings.

The World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) has awarded Koeberg its highest rating for safe efficient operation. The Koeberg staff are competent responsible people and Cape Town residents should be proud of them and applaud their dedicated service to the community.

Dr Kelvin Kemm is a nuclear physicist and is CEO of Stratek Business Strategy Consultants, a project management company based in Pretoria, South Africa. Stratek@pixie.co.za

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