Koeberg nuclear plant: evacuation plan?

Posted on | maart 14, 2011 | No Comments

Eleven years ago, experts warned that by 2015, it would take 19 hours to evacuate the increasingly populated 16-km-emergency evacuation zone around Koeberg nuclear power plant, according document:

Koeberg, Africa’s only nuclear power station, is sited along the Atlantic Ocean, 12km from the edge of the Cape Town metropole and 30km from parliament and its bustling harbour. Yet despite international requirements that populations close to nuclear plants should be kept to a minimum, Cape Town’s metropole has been allowed to spread ever-northwards – in fact two towns, Atlantis and Melkbosstrand, are nestled right next to Koeberg’s outer fences. Experts already warned in 2000 that within fifteen years, it would take up to 19 hours to evacuate the population in a 16km radius of the plant in case of a nuclear emergency.

Earthquake warnings
Koeberg is located right next to the Atlantic Ocean near the Augrabies earthquake zone. Top scientist Dr Chris Hartnady of the Umvoto Africa CSIR satellite centre warned on 11 April 2010 that both Durban and Cape Town could soon be hit by an earthquake: measurements show that the region’s tectonic plates are increasingly active along the entire East African rift faultline and this could pose a major threat to South Africa. And with increasing activity logged over the entire past year at Augrabies in the Northern Cape, these could be early-warning signs for a large earthquake. (http://censorbugbear-reports.blogspot.com/2010/04/earthquake-warning-for-south-africa.html)
Yet despite the obvious need for a clear, precise and well-trained evacuation plan for its millions of residents, Cape Town does not have one. Emergency-evacuation exercises have never been held with the population.

A year 2000 computer-generated traffic evacuation simulation for Koeberg estimated that the population located inside the 16km radius around Koeberg that year could have been evacuated within 4.5 hours – but that by the year 2015 due to the rapid population growth towards Koeberg, “traffic demand will clear in a period of about 19 hours…’ Since 1948, South Africa has been Africa’s only nuclear-power. The country supplied the uranium for the world’s first atom-bombs developed in the USA. And Koeberg ‘s two seawater-cooled French-built reactors were completed in 1984 despite the fact that it was hit by a devastating bomb two years earlier. (history)

Draft emergency-evacuation regulations drawn up for Koeberg in Oct 2010 – but its Public Safety Information Meetings are held at Pelindaba, Pretoria:

By October 2010, NECSA, (the State-owned ‘Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA’) official Ditebogo Kgomo was still advertising “for the public to comment on proposed draft regulations on the development of the formal emergency planning zone of the Koeberg Nuclear power plant’. Its website carried a minute amount of information on what the public should do in an emergency situation around Koeberg. They did mention that an ‘Public Safety Information Meeting’ would be held on 26 March 2011 at Gate 1, Pelindabathe Necsa Visitor Centre, at 09:00 AM, which is located at Church Street West Extension, Brits District in Pelindaba, North West Province 0240;

Necsa website: “What to do in case of an Emergency “
• Stay calm
• Go indoors (staying indoors provides significant protection)
• Close all doors and windows
• Switch off air conditioners
• Tune into Radio Jacaranda (94.2FM) or Motsweding (89.6-91FM) for instructions
• Periodic announcements shall be made concerning the emergency status and actions that must be taken. If it is necessary to evacuate a specific area, an announcement stating the safest route shall be made
• Only use the telephone if it is absolutely necessary since it may be necessary to contact you by telephone
• BE A GOOD neighbour. If you see anyone outdoors please advise him/her to take shelter
• Help the deaf and disabled
• If you are travelling by car at the time of the emergency close all your windows and air vents and leave the affected area. In case Necsa’s Telkom land lines are not working, please dial: 083 639 0366 / 082 806 3611 Please see this document below for instructions in other languages.

Kostas Rontiris, Director, Independent Consulting Engineering (Pty) Ltd, S Africa
W Crous, Head of Transport Planning Department, Cape Metropolitan Council, S Africa

The Koeberg nuclear power station is situated about 26km north of the Cape Town central business district. Development in the metropolitan area has spread northwards since the power station was constructed. The present population living in the area around the power station, as well as high expected future growth,have given rise to concerns relating to the evacuation times of the area in the event of a nuclear emergency.

This paper presents the evaluation results of the existing evacuation plan in terms of transportation impacts, highlights the use of EMME/2, and lists the recommendations made to the National Nuclear Regulatory Board.

Nuclear facilities are obliged to put evaluation plans in place and to ensure that they are operational. There are a number of physical elements in a nuclear evacuation that need to be complied with, in order to reduce exposure to radiation. These range from notification of an emergency to sheltering, administration of stable iodine, evacuation of the population, the caring and repatriation of evacuees, amongst others. Legally, the nuclear operating authority must provide detailed safety and emergency procedures able to cope with emergencies. Such procedures have been developed in line with South African and international standards. These have well defined spatial elements but there are no strong time elements relating to the evacuation of affected areas. In terms of the South African Nuclear Regulator Act of 1999. there are no specific requirements with regard to maximum evacuation times of affected areas in the event of an emergency.

The accident at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Station in 1979 resulted in the adoption of emergency evacuation planning based on traffic simulation software packages. This dynamic simulation approach produces turning movements on each link which are then introduced to the simulation data set to model delays and congestion. The resultant evacuation time estimates are obtained when the network is cleared. In terms of this investigation, which focuses on the broad transport evacuation issues and also the expected future performance of the transport system in the event of an emergency, it was decided to use the existing EMME/2 model calibrated for the Cape Metropolitan area. EMME/2 does not give the same level of detail as a simulation model but in this study it did assist the process by quickly defining the traffic demand flows for a number of scenarios that needed to be tested.

International practice is to subdivide the area around a nuclear facility into a number of zones as follows :
• the Public Exclusion Boundary (PEB) : an area of approximately 2km radius from the nuclear facility which is not accessible to the public;
• the Inner Emergency Protection Zone (Inner EPZ) is an area radiating 5km from the reactor more: http://www.inro.ca/en/pres_pap/asian/asi00/EMME2Asian.pdf

Koeberg: history of terrorism; poor maintenance; 91 staffers contaminated with Cobalt-58
On 8 January 1982, Umkhonto we Sizwe, (MK) the armed wing of the (now ruling) African National Congress (US-listed-terrorist) organisation, attacked Koeberg nuclear power plant while under construction. Damage was estimated at R 500m. Its commissioning was put back by 18 months. In 2010, the bomber was identified as being Rodney Wilkinson. (source: Beresford, David (2010). Truth is a Strange Fruit: A Personal Journey Through the Apartheid War. Jacana. ISBN 9781770099029 and “History of MK“. African National Congress. Archived from the original on 2007-04-04. Retrieved 2007-05-14).

In August 2002 twelve Greenpeace activists obtained access to the station. Six scaled the wall of the plant to hang up an anti-nuclear protest banner. The twelve were arrested and fined. (source: Jo-Anne Smetherham (2002-08-25). “Greenpeace in the dock over Koeberg raid“. Cape Times. Retrieved 2007-05-1

91 staffers contaminated by Cobalt-58 on 12 Sept 2010:
On 12 September 2010, 91 members of staff were contaminated with Cobalt-58 residue in a mysterious incident that a’appeared to be confined to the plant”. (source SAPA (2010-09-20). “Koeberg workers contaminated“. News24. Retrieved 2010-09-22).

Technical difficulties
At the end of 2005, Koeberg started experiencing numerous technical difficulties. On 11 November 2005, a fault on a transmission busbar caused the reactor to go into safe mode, cutting supply to most of the Western Cape for about two hours. On 16 November a fire under a 400kV transmission line caused the line to trip, causing severe voltage dips which resulted in Koeberg once again shutting down. Various parts of the Cape were left without electricity for hours at a time. On the evening of 23 November 2005, a routine inspection of the backup safety system revealed a below-spec concentration of an important chemical, resulting in a controlled shutdown of the reactor. Major power cuts were not experienced until Friday 25 November, when the backup capacity began running out. At this point, rotational load shedding was employed, with customers being switched off in stages for most of the day. Koeberg was re-synchronised to the national grid on Saturday 26 November.

On Sunday 25 December 2005, the generator of Unit 1 was damaged by a worker dropping a spanner into it. While the generator was being powered up after scheduled refuelling and maintenance, a loose bolt, which was left inside the generator caused more severe damage, forcing it to be shut down. Subsequent to the unexpected unavailability of Unit 1, Unit 2 was also brought down for scheduled refuelling, resulting in a severe shortage of supply to the Western Cape. This resulted in widespread load shedding in order to maintain the stability of the network. A replacement rotor for Unit 1 was shipped in from France and the unit was brought back into operation in May 2006.

On 18 and 19 February 2006 large parts of the Western Cape again experienced blackouts due to a “ccontrolled shutdown” of Koeberg. According to Eskom and the City of Cape Town, power cuts were to continue until 26 February 2006, however power supply problems continued beyond this date. The estimated economic losses due to the power cuts was over R 500 M as at February 2007, and was estimated to rise to possibly as high as R 2 billion. http://www.nucleartourist.com/world/koeberg.htm

Background on Rodney Wilkinson,
the British hippy who bombed Koeberg nuclear power station: according to the Sunday Times:

He was South Africa’s one-time national fencing champion – who dropped out of university and joined a commune near Koeberg in the late ’70s. In other words, he was a hippy.The operation was born of chance. When the community ran out of money, Rodney Wilkinson, who had studied building science and politics, reluctantly took a job at the plant then under construction. He worked there for 18 months.

Encouraged by his girlfriend, Heather Gray, a speech therapist, he stole a set of the building plans. The couple took them to newly independent Zimbabwe with the idea that they could be used by the ANC to attack the French-built nuclear installation. It was suspected at the time that the plant would be used by the nationalist government to produce plutonium for the construction of atomic bombs. The ANC, which had recently had one of its agents jailed on charges of nuclear espionage, was initially suspicious of the white South African who pitched up on its doorstep, claiming to have penetrated what was assumed to be the most secure installation in the country.

After lengthy delays, during which the stolen plans were authenticated by Soviet and Western nuclear scientists, and Wilkinson was vetted, the ANC invited him to carry out the attack himself. He was taken aback by the request, but agreed and returned to South Africa. To his surprise, he gained fresh employment at Koeberg, with the task of mapping pipes and valves at the installation for use in case of emergency. The ANC appointed a guerrilla commander in Swaziland to act as Wilkinson’s handler. Once a month he visited the mountain kingdom – a favourite resort for whites in search of illicit pleasures not available in puritanical South Africa – under the pretence of enjoying a “dirty weekend”. There he and his handler thrashed out strategy, designed to maximise embarrassment to the South African authorities while ensuring the minimum risk to human life. They honed down possible targets to the two reactor heads, another section of the containment building, and a concentration of electric cables under the main control room.

16 December target date:
The choice of the reactor heads, which would be used to control the nuclear reaction, was to maximise the propaganda impact. Made of 110 tons of steel, they were unlikely to be seriously affected by the blasts, but they would demonstrate the ANC’s capacity to hit at the heart of the plant. The other two targets were chosen to cause as much damage as possible. Wilkinson established that nuclear fuel had been moved into the plant, ready for loading into the reactors, but it was in dormant storage which minimised any risk of radioactive fallout. The date for the attack was set for December 16. White South Africans marked the day each year with a public holiday celebrating the battle of Blood River, a 19th-century victory by the Boers over the Zulus.

But the date had another significance: the ANC commemorated it as MK Day, in honour of the founding of its guerrilla army, Umkhonto weSizwe. Wilkinson and Gray dug up four limpet mines from a roadside arms cache in the Karoo. Placing them in wine-box decanters in their car, a Renault 5, they drove back to their home in the Cape Town suburb of Claremont, where they hid the devices in holes conveniently dug by their puppy, Gaby. From there Wilkinson smuggled the mines, one by one, in a hidden compartment of the Renault, through the perimeter security fence at the nuclear installation, depositing them in a desk drawer in his prefabricated office. He then carried them, hidden in his overalls, through a security gate into the main building.The build-up to the attack was marked by a series of near mishaps. At one stage an accidental short circuit started a cable fire. The incident was reported in the press and the ANC’s president in exile, Oliver Tambo – who was privy to the planned operation but not to details such as timing – released a statement claiming it as an ANC attack.

The claim prompted a security scare that ended, amid much derision towards the ANC, when the true cause of the blaze was confirmed by investigators. In November the firm hiring Wilkinson told him it was laying him off at the end of the month, but later asked him to stay for another month. He turned this to his advantage, telling the company that in the interim he had taken another job and would have to leave on 17 December, obtaining cover for his planned disappearance.

As it transpired, Wilkinson did not make the target date of December 16, but finished planting the bombs the following day, a Friday. Setting the fuses to a 24-hour delay so that they would explode on the Saturday, when he knew the target areas would be deserted, he was then forced to undergo a farewell party on the premises with his fellow engineers, mentally praying that the time-delayed fuses were not defective.

That afternoon he flew to Johannesburg and was taken, with a borrowed bicycle, to a point near the Swaziland border, where he rode into exile.

The bombs detonated, but not quite as planned: the springs on the firing mechanism proved brittle and the devices exploded over a period of several hours instead of simultaneously. But the damage was devastating. The authorities put the cost at R500-million and the commissioning of the plant was delayed for 18 months. The attack was a chilling demonstration of the vulnerability of an atomic installation to sabotage, as well as a reflection on the incompetence of South African security. The authorities at Koeberg have since made the extraordinary claim that they not only anticipated the attack but had pinpointed the date. In a book on the history of the plant, a former executive, Paul Semark, is quoted as saying: “We knew the ANC would not target Koeberg once nuclear fuel was there, and that they would try to attack at a time which would ensure the least loss of life. We even pinpointed 16 December 1982, which was a public holiday, as the likely date.” Their inability to counter the threat is not explained, however. The apparent helplessness of the authorities is even more astonishing in the light of Wilkinson’s background. Twice he joined the workforce at the plant – on both occasions he was granted access to the most sensitive sectors of nuclear installation – but was never subjected to security vetting. Had they checked his background they could have discovered that he was a military deserter and was involved in the anti-nuclear campaign. Six years earlier, while doing his national service, Wilkinson had been admitted to hospital after wrecking an armoured truck while going Awol with 12 colleagues during the South African invasion of Angola. Military police took statements but, apparently because of the illegality of the Angolan invasion, did not prosecute him.

He was also caught breaching security at the nuclear plant, but nothing was done about it. Alcohol was banned in the plant. Testing security by smuggling in a bottle of vodka – roughly the shape of a limpet mine – he was caught in possession of it while wandering, hiccuping, around the main control room. “I wanted to have a look; you see it in all the films – this great big room with all these banks of computers. But the tension must have been too much for me; I drank the vodka,” he recounts wryly. Detained in the guardroom, he was released after being given a warning by a security officer whom he knew from the local squash club.

Wilkinson says his worst moment was when he was on his way to plant the second mine in the Reactor One containment building and spotted a guard watching him with apparent suspicion.”My legs were like jelly and I could feel beads of perspiration on my face.” He detoured and placed the device at an alternative target the ANC had identified – in another concentration of cables under the second control room.A seemingly impossible obstacle he had to overcome was carrying mines into the “clean” area surrounding the reactors, access to which was gained through an airlock where he had to strip and don protective clothing. But he discovered that pipes leading into the clean area had plastic diaphragms to keep the air clean, and he was able to simply push the bombs through them, pass through the airlock himself, and collect them on the other side.”When I thought of that I was on cloud nine. I had been having sleepless nights about it,” Wilkinson recalls.

A pivotal figure in the operation was Mac Maharaj, an underground leader of the ANC in South Africa and subsequently minister of transport, after whom the project, Operation Mac, was named.”They never got to know how it was done; until now they have not known the identity of this couple,” Maharaj said.South African security forces were expected to retaliate after the blasts and Wilkinson and Gray were placed under deep cover. A couple was later badly injured in an attack, which is believed to have been a misdirected act. Wilkinson flew from Swaziland to Maputo, where he met Tambo in the ANC leader’s office, the two men crying in each other’s arms at their triumph. Gray, who had flown out of South Africa a week before the attack, joined Wilkinson there and they flew to Britain, where they were married in Woodbridge, Suffolk. http://www.timeslive.co.za/sundaytimes/article626909.ece/The-swordsman-and-the-bomb   

AUTHOR: Adriana Stuijt
URL: http://censorbugbear.blogspot.com
E-MAIL: a.j.stuijt [at] knid.nl


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