South African state-owned power utility, Eskom, today said that a drone recently crashed on the Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant site and was returned to its owner without the investigation having been completed. This incident is in contravention of the nuclear safety regulations and has been taken seriously.
According to the utility, they have suspended the Koeberg Safety officer as a precautionary measure to fully investigate the incident.
Due to the unregulated nature of the incident, a case has been opened with the national police service as Koeberg is a National Key Point.
No further information around the investigation has been released at this stage.
National drone regulations
The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), states that operation of a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), otherwise known as an unmanned drone, which is in contravention of privacy by-laws and other laws enforceable by other authorities, carries a legal liability.
The authority adds that no RPA is to be flown 50 metres or closer to a property without permission from the property owner, in this case Eskom.
Should the RPA have landed in a particularly high risk area, or interfered with any operations pertaining to the plant, damage and/or injury may have been caused to the existing infrastructure and potentially human life.
Beneficial use of drones
In a legal and controlled space, drones may be of benefit when conducting utility maintenance, especially in remote and hard to reach areas such as electrical lines in high mountainous areas where climatic conditions may be high risk for human activity.
Suspension of two follows suit
In other news, following on the lines of suspension, Eskom has placed the Koeberg Power Station manager and the plant manager on precautionary suspension as a result of the distribution of documentation containing unauthorised facts and assumptions relating to Koeberg’s Production Plan and in particular, the steam generator replacement.
The potential prejudice caused to Eskom by the unauthorised actions of the suspended personnel, is currently being assessed, the parastatal said in a statement.