Picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town- The government has come in for criticism after Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan confirmed three incidents of leakage of radioactive waste at Koeberg nuclear power station.

The Freedom Front Plus (FF+) said the public ought to have been informed about the leakages in May 2014, October 2015 and November 2015.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question posed in January by FF+’s Corné Mulder, Gordhan said there had been three incidents where negligible amounts of radioactivity were released to the environment through an unmonitored pathway.

“The normal radioactivity levels of what was released were of such levels that there was no impact to staff, members of the public or the environment,” he said.

Gordhan also said all the incidents were reported to the National Nuclear Regulator. He said the amounts of radioactivity that could have been released were well below any regulatory limit and did not require a response or notification of the public. Radioactive waste is a by-product of nuclear power generation.

The three incidents were reviewed by Koeberg to identify the causes and also to determine the appropriate corrective actions.

Gordhan said action was taken in order to prevent human error again.

“Malfunctioning equipment was repaired as a priority,” he said.

Mulder said it was worrying that there had been three leakages and that the public was not informed, adding that his party was not satisfied with the answer with regards to the cause of the leakage and the remedies for the problem.

“The party will keep a close eye on the situation to ensure that all irregularities and/or leakages are communicated to the public at once, no matter how insignificant they may seem. The public is entitled to be informed.”

He was also curious to know what caused Koeberg’s systems and equipment to deteriorate to such an extent that three leakages occurred in just two years.

“The party is worried that a possible loss of expertise at Koeberg could be detrimental and will, thus, address further questions to the minister. Only the best experts should be at the helm of things at a nuclear power plant like Koeberg,” Mulder said.

Meanwhile, Stellenbosch University’s dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Professor Wikus van Niekerk, said South Africa was facing a situation where Eskom would be unable to provide the country with a reliable supply of electricity.

He said consumers were overly dependent on getting electricity from Eskom, while other sources of electri­city were readily available at a lower cost.

Political Bureau