Koeberg Nuclear Power Station
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Koeberg Nuclear Power Station is situated on the West Coast of the Western Cape, South Africa some 30 kilometres north of Cape Town. It is the only nuclear power station situated this far south in the world.
Koeberg Power Station with its two towers
Traditionally electricity has been produced from coal or oil fired turbines here in South Africa .
Coal fired power stations are known for their pollution of the atmosphere so it was decided by the authorities to go the nuclear route and gradually phase out the old type of power station.
Prior to 1976 South Africa only had coal fired stations which were powered by coal mined in Natal and the Transvaal or Gauteng as it is known today. In Cape Town we had three power stations before Koeberg. One was in the city centre at the bottom of Long Street and occupied a large site of prime land. The other was on the coast close to the old Woodstock beach in an area now called Paarden Eiland. A third power station was situated near Langa Township and has two large cooling towers which can be seen from miles around. It is however no longer active.
The two Cape Town power stations, other than producing electricity also provided the surfers of Cape Town with an indication of which direction the wind was blowing when smoke from the tall stacks was blown inland or out to sea depending on the wind of the day. By reading the wind the surfers knew what type of surf would be available at their favourite surfing spots.
Since Koeberg came online in 1984 both the city power stations have been scrapped and the buildings demolished.
Hotels built on old power station site can be seen from the centre to the right of the photo
The site at the bottom of Long street now has a number of upmarket hotels built on it while the site near Paarden Eiland stands vacant.
Koeberg Power station has taken over the role of electricity supplier to the Western Cape.
This power station produces enough electricity to power most of the Western Cape's electricity needs and in fact produces 6.5 per cent of South Africa's power.
Since its inception it has been an extremely reliable power station and has a good safety record as well.
However, over the past number of years a number of issues have arisen which puts a large question mark over the nuclear reactor.
According to geologists the Duynefontein area is stable so there should not be a problem if there were to be an earthquake. No mention is made of the Milnerton fault which is situated just 8 kilometres off the Koeberg Power Station and has been the cause of a number of light earthquakes over the years. A second problem is the fact that all radioactive waste is kept onsite and there must be a mighty big pile of it that has built up since 1984.
What would happen if the Milnerton fault were to cause a tsunami and the vaults where this waste is kept were to be flooded. Would Koeberg and its surrounding areas still be safe ? Even more scary is the fact that the authorities are looking to build a number of pebble bed reactors on adjacent sites knowing of the Milnerton fault and the problems it could cause should it move.
Should a major problem with the Koeberg nuclear power station occur the Western Cape would become uninhabitable and be lost to the world as a tourist attraction. Any emissions of radioactivity would kill off the Western Cape's farming industry as well as pose a threat to the more than four million people living in the greater Cape Town area. We've just seen what nature can do in New Orleans in a few short days.
Just imagine what would happen should a large earthquake or tsunami hit Koeberg which is situated on the coastline just 8 kilometres from a known fault.
Cape Town, situated on the southern tip of Africa, has an alternative which should be investigated. Each year starting at the beginning of spring the prevailing south east winds start to blow and if this wind could be harnessed enough electricity could be generated throughout the year to take Koeberg Nuclear Power station out the equation. That would make Cape Town a much safer place to live in and would keep the city on the tourism map for future generations.
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Page updated 24.7.2012