Eskom’s Koeberg needs R200m nuke waste casks to make 2018

by Wendell Roelf

Nuclear_dry_storage(Reuters) – South African power utility Eskom, struggling to meet demand in Africa’s most¬†developed economy, is to pay an estimated R200 million ($15.6 million) for the supply of¬†nuclear waste storage casks to keep its Koeberg plant running beyond 2018.¬†The seven new reinforced metal casks to be supplied by US energy company Holtec¬†International are the first step of a three-phase project to create more storage space at Koeberg,¬†which is Africa’s only nuclear power plant, situated about 35km from Cape Town.

Eskom, which regularly has to turn off the lights to industry and homes to protect the national¬†power grid from collapse, said that Koeberg’s two 900 megawatt (MW) reactors need additional¬†storage to accommodate spent fuel assemblies beyond 2018. Koeberg produces about 32¬†tonnes of spent fuel a year but its spent-fuel pools, where assemblies are cooled under water for¬†a decade, are 70 percent full. The fuel assemblies contain radioactive materials including¬†uranium and plutonium, which can remain dangerous for thousands of years.

“Additional space will be created by moving spent fuel from spent-fuel pools into dry spent-fuel¬†storage casks,” an Eskom spokesman said on Wednesday. Phase two of the project will procure¬†a further 30 to 40 dry storage casks before a final phase in which an on-site transient interim¬†storage facility will be built by 2019.

“An off-site central interim storage facility is planned to be available by 2025 (and) dry storage¬†casks will be transported from the interim storage to this facility,” Eskom said.

Low and intermediate-level radioactive waste is transported by road hundreds of kilometres away to the desolate Vaalputs repository, which Eskom favours as the central interim storage facility. SA is considering a range of final storage options, including recycling high-level waste or storing it deep underground, as it plans an ambitious nuclear power expansion to generate an additional 9,600 MW by 2030.

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