No welding risk to Koeberg steam generators, says French manufacturer

The steam generators at the Koeberg nuclear power station near Cape Town are not affected by possible welding deficiencies being investigated by the French manufacturing company Electricité de France (EDF), Eskom told Fin24 on Monday.

South Africa is one of the countries using EDF's technology.

It was reported in the French media earlier in September that EDF's reactor building company Framatome (previously known as Areva) established that there was "a deviation from technical standards" in the welding on some steam generators manufactured since 2008. Steam is used for the turbine producing electricity within a nuclear power plant.

Fin24 approached Eskom at the time to enquire whether Koeberg might be affected, after which Eskom approached Framatome for an answer. Framatome has now confirmed to Eskom that Koeberg is not affected.

"Since Eskom's steam generators at Koeberg were manufactured by EDF, we decided to engage with EDF's Framatome to ensure that we were not at risk," Riedewaan Barkadien, Eskom's chief nuclear officer, told Fin24 this week.

"Upon investigation, we have confirmed through Framatome that both units in operation at Koeberg were not affected by the reported welding deficiency phenomenon as described in the media."

He explained that the issue in question related to the change in Framatome's welding technique used in the manufacturing process of the steam generators and specifically, the post-weld heat treatment (PWHT) processes and implementation practices that were used for component manufacturing since 2003 at the Saint-Marcel plant in Chalon, France.

The Koeberg Unit 1 and 2 steam generators were, however, manufactured between 1977 and 1981, and therefore, the issue is not applicable to Koeberg.

Barkadien said Koeberg has operated safely since 1984 and added that Koeberg has implemented rigorous maintenance and training programmes to ensure that the components work optimally, and that there is no risk to the plant, personnel, or the environment.

Eskom is currently in the process of applying for permission to extend the plant's operating licence from 40 to 60 years.

In April this year, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said in a Parliamentary reply that Koeberg released radioactive waste into the environment in three separate incidents in 2014 and 2015, but the quantities were "negligible" and fell under the threshold that would have made it necessary to notify the public.