Koeberg Reactor Near Meltdown no cause for concern!


YESTERDAY’S near meltdown at Koeberg, South Africa’s only commercial nuclear power station resulted in a “scramble” by employees to shut the reactor down. The ensuing blackout plunged Cape Town’s flatland into darkness and left thousands stranded. Traffic jams and frozen lifts were reported all over the city.

The automatic shutdown caused after a warning system reported a fault inside the reactor was “no cause for concern” according to officials, and was the second time in two years that the reactor had to be shut down.In scenes reminiscent of Three Mile Island, (depicted in movies like The CHINA SYNDROME), the reactor core begun to flare out of control, before tracking rods could be inserted.

Luckily the situation rectified itself after the safety mechanism scrambled allowing a general shutdown of reactor activity. Failure of such mechanisms have been blamed for both the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters. At Chernobyl, engineers running an experiment were unable to shut down the reactor, and the resulting meltdown breached containment areas resulting in the devastation of the surrounding environment,loss of life of hundreds of thousands and an airborne plume of radiactive dust that reached as far as Iceland.

There are currently no workable plans for evacuating Cape Town in the event of a containment breach at Koeberg. Although the Koeberg reactor has already reached the end of its productive cycle,the power station has been allowed by authorities to run for nearly a decade past its specifications. The blackout thus represents both a material and engineering breakdown. Decommissioning of such a plant is however considered too costly, as the core will be “hot” for millenia. The half-life of plutonium for example, is measured in thousands of years — the time it takes for such material to become half as reactive.

Despite warnings from interest groups such as Koeberg Alert and Earthlife Africa, Eskom continues to pursue nuclear energy as a “viable alternative to coal and gas”, and has done virtually nothing to implement renewable and environmentally safe energy. With insurance at a premium, the company is unlikely to get backing from any financial institution for such a project without help from central government. Now is the time to sue Cape Town local government for protection from the threat of future disaster, not after such a disaster has happened!

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16 comments

  1. peterhd

    I totally disagree with the orgional post and agree with the added comment, which tries to point out matters of fact. For the record I worked at Koeberg myself and am aware of the facts.

    Disinformation, hyperbole and exaggeration ‘full of sound and fury signifying nothing’ is the best that can said about the post.

    Unfortunately it is the same ’emotionalism and sensationalism’ which led to ‘`Environmental movement has lost its way’ – Scare tactics, disinformation go too far, says former Greenpeace founder’ and which led to the same Greenpeace founder leaving the organisation.

    In the same article you will see a bases for a rational and measured approach to using Nuclear Power.

  2. bbmatt

    I always wonder what the combined health effects of fossil fuels are when compared with the few nuclear reactor disasters we’ve had over the decades.

    I’d put my money on fossil fuel health effects being a number of orders more dire than nuclear power, borne out by the climate tipping point we now find ourselves at the top of.

    Anyway, Koeberg :-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koeberg
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressurized_water_reactor

    No idea if that’s a totally accurate summary, but at least it is unbiased.

    I think our only hope to slow down our reliance on fossil fuels are Pebble Bed Reactors.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_bed_reactor

    I’ve read bits ‘n bobs over the years about various other forms of energy generation and the general consensus amongst experts is that they can only supply a fraction of a countries power needs due to simple physics and therefore economics.

    The medium term solution is nuclear power.

    When I read prominent Green Peace members and top environmentalists indicating that nuclear power is the only viable medium term energy solution and then witness the political shit storm against them, I can only conclude that they are right.

    Those who control the fossil fuels are so defensive of their power base, they go to war to protect it and easily squash anything which may cut into their profit margins. The worlds economy has become so reliant on fossil fuels, we’ve got a problem on our hands.

  3. davidrobertlewis

    The Bart Simpsonesque responses I’m getting to my somewhat ironic posting would be amusing if the chances that Koeberg could actually meltdown, weren’t 1 in 50. The nuclear industry lied about Sellafield, they lied about Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and now they are lying about Koeberg.

    One doesn’t have to be a nuclear engineer or Homer Simpson to understand that fission is dangerous and any activity beyond the norm can cause a critical and uncontrolled chain reaction that may not be stopped by fallible designs and human “engineering”. I’m reminded of the asbestos industry telling us that asbestos is safe. I’ve challenged nuclear officials to eat U235 and other isotopes to prove the safety of their nuclear sandwhich, but they still insist that every home should have a nuclear oven, a nuclear toaster, a nuclear television set.

    Telling us that Koeberg “Scrammed” only confirms the fact that systems went haywire and that the plant was out of control, if not for minutes, then seconds. They way particles react, I wouldn’t like to be a homeowner in Melkbostrand or Tableview right now, because this is bound to depreciate property values.

    As for people dissing the environmental movement, where would we be now without “sustainable development”, a buzz word I introduced to South African’s way back in the 1990s after the Rio Conference. What’s the bet that I am the first journalist in this country to talk about Sustainable Development in a meaningful way?

    Thats all for now you lying bastards.

    FORWARD TO A NUCLEAR-FREE, NON-RACIST, NON-SEXIST SOUTH AFRICA.

  4. davidrobertlewis

    Is Koeberg like the accident prone Space Shuttle, another design disaster? Check out what these technology blockheads really mean:

    “Reactor Scram or Reactor Trip refers to the insertion of the control rods. … related to shutting down the reactor, mitigating the effects of a loss of reactor coolant accident” …www.nucleartourist.com/systems/rp.htm

    The operative word here is “accident”. Yet another accident at a plant known for its leaks, and cover-ups.

    Scram
    … Scram. A scram is an emergency shutdown of a nuclear reactor, though the term has been extended … to drop a control rod into a reactor to shut it down …www.worldhistory.com/wiki/S/Scram.htm –

    The operative word here is “emergency”. Does Cape Town have the capacity to deal with a nuclear reactor meltdown, and a radiative emergency evacuation? Answer: NO!

  5. hurkummer

    I think there are different issues at hand:

    1. Evacuation/ Emergency response

    The blogger asserts that the government/energy company have no plans or resources to deal with an emergency.

    2. Reactor safety of Koeberg

    The blogger asserts that the reactor is old and outdated. The design of the reactor is insufficient.

    3. Nuclear power

    The blogger is obviously against the use of nuclear power in any way or form.

    4. Bizarre signature

    The blogger has a signature which suggests he sees nuclear power as connected to racism and anti-democratic government. What have you been smoking man?

    Perhaps responses limited to these issues would speed the debate.

    Personally I think that nuclear power is necessary, all over the world. There are to many people and fossil fuels are insufficient and undesirable. Alternative sources are innefficient (imagine how much land you need to make a wind farm as powerful as a reactor, and then hope the wind blows…) Fusion is more desirable as there is no waste save heat dissipation but we are stuck with fission. How do make fission viable and safe? I propose that new technologies like pebble bed be furthered as it promises more self-controlled reactions. Furthermore it allows the use of multiple fuel types enabling to dispose of some forms of “waste” from warheads. Additionaly I propose an IAEA governed fuelbank which would be solely responsible and authoritative for design standards and fuel rod distribution and enrichement. This would allay fears of nuclear research wandering off the peaceful path. Such an institution would house the worlds best experts and hence by collaborating would yield better results than bootstrap methods currently used by some countries, nuclear fission is a tad to dangerous to completely leave to market economics..

    As to emergency issues, reactors should be moved away from cities and built in confinable and secure locations, deep in a mountain range or in a desert, if only to keep it off the target list of terrorists but also to ensure that if anything does go awry, you don’t have millions of people rushing about stampeding themselves.. Current reactors in populated areas should be phased out and replaced with new designs under control and regulation of the international body.

    So there’s my 2 cents, and uh, the original blogger should grow up.

  6. Kinsley

    Fission is safe in nuclear reactors, the material used is not weapons grade so it will not cause a chain reaction and result in an explosion, the worst would be a meltdown and spilling of radioactive debris. If Koeberg does meltdown, maybe the South Easter would blow some of the dirt away from the city and we won’t have a massive fallout.

  7. davidrobertlewis

    Fission causes radioactive isotope’s, some which inevitably escape containment. Strontium 90 and Ceasium 137 are two such isotopes that are emitted from Koebert on a daily basis. The resulting fallout has been detected in shellfish, wheat, and dairy, As you know from biology, we are at the top of the food chain. These “safe” fission emissions accumulate up the food chain and cause bone cancers, mutations and diseases of the blood. As for the South Easter, isn’t this just an example of the kind of pro-nuclear fuddlyheadedness that passes for science?

  8. Ron Rondy

    Hi David

    Are you a heart surgeon? Are you a brain specialist? Are you a car mechanic? Are you a lawyer? Are you a rocket scientist? Are you a house wife? OR are you a “working woman”?

    I beg of you the answer… If you would not write or blurt out your uneducated opinion on any of the above areas, why if you are a NUCLEAR ENGINEER or NUCLEAR PHYSICIST would you take it upon yourself the challange of even remotely trying to write about anything Nuclear? The statistical chances of core damage or large release of radiation are almost zero…

    Yes I am a Nuclear Engineer and Yes I have experience in the field and Yes the little I claim to know is more then most people would care to know about te topic. I agree that its not all moon shine an roses but the picture you paint is like trying to perform a fine piece of classical music by bashing a few rocks together.

    Your information is grossley inaccurate and your as for using the “truth” found in a wiki article, now that is just plain “fuddlyheadedness”…

  9. rob

    Hi David

    Are you a heart surgeon? Are you a brain specialist? Are you a car mechanic? Are you a lawyer? Are you a rocket scientist? Are you a house wife? OR are you a “working woman”?

    I beg of you the answer… If you would not write or blurt out your uneducated opinion on any of the above areas, why if you are a NUCLEAR ENGINEER or NUCLEAR PHYSICIST would you take it upon yourself the challenge of even remotely trying to write about anything Nuclear? The statistical chances of core damage or large release of radiation are almost zero…

    Yes I am a Nuclear Engineer and Yes I have experience in the field and Yes the little I claim to know is more then most people would care to know about the topic. I agree that its not all moon shine an roses but the picture you paint is like trying to perform a fine piece of classical music by bashing a few rocks together.

    Your information is grossly inaccurate and as for using the “truth” found in a wiki article, now that is just plain “fuddlyheadedness”…

  10. robert

    Hi David

    Are you a heart surgeon? Are you a brain specialist? Are you a car mechanic? Are you a lawyer? Are you a rocket scientist? Are you a house wife? OR are you a “working woman”?

    If you would not write or blurt out your uneducated opinion on any of the above areas, why if you are a NUCLEAR ENGINEER or NUCLEAR PHYSICIST would you take it upon yourself the challenge of even remotely trying to write about anything Nuclear?

    Yes I am a Nuclear Engineer and Yes I have experience in the field and Yes the little I claim to know is more then most people would care to know about the topic. I agree that its not all moon shine an roses but the picture you paint is like trying to perform a fine piece of classical music by bashing a few rocks together.

    Your information is grossly inaccurate and as for using the “truth” found in a wiki article, now that is just plain “fuddlyheadedness”…

  11. ann rynd

    I am encouraged to see South Africa is as full of fatheads as Vermont, USA.

    Here comes the next dark age.

    Funny how all the protesters use electricity to power their laptops to tap out their ridiculous theories using electrical power they don’t understand.

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