Eskomgate – probes nuclear info leak, suspends managers at Koeberg

by Paul Burkhardt

(Bloomberg) — Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., South Africa’s state-owned power utility, said it is investigating an information leak at the Koeberg nuclear plant that could affect a court case related to a 5 billion-rand ($373 million) contract awarded to Areva SA for work at the facility.

Pylons carry power from South Africa's Koeberg nuclear power plant near Cape Town August 13, 2015. Fears are growing in South Africa that agreements to build nuclear power plants that could be the most expensive procurement in the country's history will be made behind closed doors, without the necessary public scrutiny. Construction on the first plant is due to start next year, breakneck speed compared with the years of regulatory and environmental checks for nuclear projects in countries such as Britain and the United States. Picture taken August 13, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
Pylons carry power from South Africa’s Koeberg nuclear power plant near Cape Town August 13, 2015. Fears are growing in South Africa that agreements to build nuclear power plants that could be the most expensive procurement in the country’s history will be made behind closed doors, without the necessary public scrutiny. Construction on the first plant is due to start next year, breakneck speed compared with the years of regulatory and environmental checks for nuclear projects in countries such as Britain and the United States. Picture taken August 13, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

The power producer hasn’t determined whether the leak was intentional, spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said by phone. Koeberg’s station and plant managers were put on precautionary suspension after distribution of the documentation. The data were given “to one of the said parties who are related to the steam-generator replacement program and it was information that had still not been approved by the board,” Phasiwe said. A safety officer was also suspended after a drone crashed at the plant in an unrelated incident, according to Eskom.

Read also: Yelland crunches the numbers – cost of electricity from new-nuclear build in SA

Westinghouse Electric Co. has contested the contract to replace the generators at the Koeberg plant near Cape Town since it was granted to Paris-based Areva in 2014. South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal ruled Dec. 9 that Eskom must review the award after an “unlawful and procedurally unfair” decision by the utility.

The steam generator award is now at the constitutional court, according to Phasiwe. “The information was given to a said party and it might actually compromise our position as we go through this constitutional court matter,” he said, declining to identify who received the information.

Drone Crash

Eskom also suspended a Koeberg safety officer as a precautionary measure after a drone struck the plant site and the matter has been referred to police, it said. The nuclear facility is classified as a National Key Point, which applies to assets of strategic importance.

The outcome of the investigations will give Eskom clues as to what the next step will be, but there is a possibility of laying criminal charges against the suspended employees, “especially in the case of the drone,” Phasiwe said.

S. Africa’s Eskom suspends two managers over leak of nuclear documents

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 10 (Reuters) – South Africa’s state-run power utility Eskom said on Wednesday it had suspended two senior managers as part of an investigation into the leaking of documents in a court case involving Koeberg, Africa’s only nuclear power plant.

The station and plant managers at Koeberg were temporarily suspended for allegedly distributing documents containing information relating to Koeberg’s production plan and its steam generator replacement, Eskom said.

The utility said the leaked information could affect a court case between Eskom and Westinghouse Electric Company, which is contesting a 4.3 billion rand ($323 million) contract awarded to Areva in 2014 to replace steam generators.

Westinghouse, the world’s largest nuclear fuel producer and part of Japan’s Toshiba group, had contested Eskom’s decision to award the contract to Areva, saying the process was flawed.

Areva won the contract to replace six steam generators at the country’s only nuclear power plant, Koeberg, near Cape Town. The nuclear generators are expected to be installed by 2018.

“The potential prejudice caused to Eskom by the unauthorised actions of the suspended personnel is currently being assessed,” Eskom said in a statement.

In an unrelated incident, a drone crashed on the Koeberg site in contravention of the nuclear safety regulations and was returned to its owner without the investigation having been completed, Eskom said.

The utility said it had suspended the Koeberg safety officer so that it can investigate the incident, which it reported to the police. Koeberg is designated as a National Key Point, protected by law against sabotage as a site of national strategic importance.

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