Koeberg threat to R140bn project

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Fresh from recent countrywide blackouts, Koeberg has announced that its unit 2 is going offline for the next six weeks. File photo: Ian Landsberg

Cape Town - The national nuclear regulator says no more development can take place near Koeberg because of fears that people could not be evacuated quickly in an emergency.

Planning applications running into millions of rand have been put on hold or flagged as a concern. This includes the R140-billion Wescape mega-development on the N7, 37km outside Cape Town, which falls within the red zone - a 16km radius of the power plant. Plans for this mixed-use development would include housing for about 800 000 people.

“The safety of the population and the opportunity of achieving public housing imperatives should be balanced in the evaluation of development applications located in the Koeberg nuclear power station surrounds,” said Annelise de Bruin, of the city’s spatial planning and development directorate, in a report submitted to council on Wednesday for consideration.

The impact on residents’ safety in a nuclear disaster, and risks associated with developments close to a nuclear power station, came to the fore internationally after Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011.

It took Japanese authorities four to five days to evacuate 100 000 residents living near Fukushima.

As part of its review of emergency preparedness, the national nuclear regulator is working on regulations limiting development within a 16km radius of Koeberg. This area is known as the emergency planning zone.

The city has put 18 private development applications on hold for the past two years as these regulations were being drafted. Many of these applications fell within the 0-5km precautionary action zone and the 5-16km urgent protective action zone.

The city’s plans for social housing projects in Atlantis and Melkbos, which combined would provide more than 30 000 housing units, have also been in abeyance.

De Bruin said these developments and “associated influx of population of lower income groups” placed a larger burden on disaster risk management and the demand for public transport in an evacuation.

But De Bruin said the regulator had advised the city against approving any development applications between now and July 2016 that could increase the population and extend the evacuation time in a disaster.

Last year the Koeberg Public Safety Information Forum said it would be possible to evacuate the 5km zone within four hours and the 16km zone within 16 hours as stipulated. But this did not take into account the proposed Wescape development.

The city has until January 31 to submits its action plan with details of mass care centres and evacuation measures to the nuclear regulator. Its revised 2012 traffic evacuation model can be used until July 2016. However, a new model must be tested and in place by August 2016. The regulator has given condition support, but not approval, for the 2012 traffic plan.

“The consequences of processing and approving development applications will be significant and difficult (if possible at all) to reverse if applications are approved as rights will vest in the properties,” cautioned De Bruin.

Meanwhile, the city is improving its evacuation plans. The mayoral committee has recommended that Klein Dassenberg Road should be re-evaluated as an evacuation route for the Witsand community in Atlantis. The public transport aspect of the evacuation plan should be updated to include the latest MyCiti bus routes.

The city’s human settlements directorate has been advised to cut backyard dwelling in its housing projects and to consult disaster risk management when planning any developments.

The time taken to evacuate will depend on exit routes, so the city must look at funds for a second lane on Charel Uys Drive and Sandown Road.

 

The regulator advised the city to exercise caution when approving plans that will increase the number of visitors moving through the 16km zone. It should limit approvals for projects that include retirement homes, schools and accommodation for the disabled. Any developments that would increase the population by 10 percent in the north-east of the 5-16km zone should also be discouraged.

Cape Argus


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