Security concern at Koeberg Nuclear Plant after arrival of suspicious package

A security concern was observed at Koeberg Nuclear Plant this week, file image

A security concern was observed at Koeberg Nuclear Plant this week, file image

Published Mar 9, 2024


Cape Town - A suspicious package believed to be an explosive device found inside the Koeberg Nuclear Plant, had security services on the hop raising concerns about the safety at the plant and the potential for a terrorist attack.

Eskom has confirmed that security concern measures had to be conducted at Koeberg Nuclear Plant this week, in what they termed “an unusual event” when a suspicious package was being delivered to the premises.

Eskom remains mum on what they believed was inside the package but sources in law enforcement have told Weekend Argus that they first thought it to be of an explosive nature.

K9 unit dogs together with law enforcement teams were called to the plant on Wednesday.

Eskom in their response denied a threat had been detected. “The incident on March 6 at Koeberg was firstly, not related to nuclear, however it was security related. An unusual event was declared following the Koeberg normal vehicle security clearance process.

“This was due to a suspicious package that was on board a delivery vehicle.

“As part of our normal procedure in such an event, the security emergency procedure was activated.

“After thorough investigation in collaboration with law enforcement, the situation was declared safe and the security emergency was called off.”

Provincial police said it was a matter of national concern and referred the Weekend Argus to national police spokesperson, Brigadier Athlenda Mathe, who confirmed their presence at the scene and that a vigorous search had been done on the suspicious vehicle.

“On Wednesday, a delivery vehicle that was scheduled to deliver spares at the site stores was thoroughly searched by dog handlers as part of standard operating procedures when delivery is conducted.

“Following a comprehensive and intensive search, the vehicle was cleared. Eskom can be contacted for further details.”

Both would not comment what item(s) they suspected to be inside the package.

In 1982, Rodney Wilkinson planted four bombs that caused hundreds of millions of damage to the Koeberg Nuclear Plant.

It was known as the most successful terror attack against a nuclear facility at the time.

Nuclear engineer Hugo Kruger told Weekend Argus that nuclear plants are designed to withstand impact of attacks as well as natural disasters.

“This is a perspective from someone who designs the plants,” he said.

“A small particle is not a threat at all, it depends what is in it. Modern nuclear plants are designed to withstand aircraft crashes, they are designed against Tsunamis, they are designed against black swan risk, which is one in a million risk.

“That includes missile attacks and explosions. If ever there is an explosion inside you would have the case where the coolant pipes are also protected but it is not impossible should you shoot a ton of missiles into it.

“Low levels of radiation are good for you. It is called radiation hormesis, even if there is an event of unlikely radiation escape, it won't do so much damage.

“The biggest concern you have of all of this is the fear, for a consumer.

“Nobody died of low dose radiation at Fukushima and Three Mile Island. The political reaction comes from fear.”

High dose radiation did kill people at Chernobyl (30-50 according to the UN).

According to the Submission of Koeberg Refurbishment, it was constructed over the period 1976 to 1985, and was designed to have a 40 year operational lifespan.

It stated that in 2010, the Eskom board approved a project to refurbish the plant at a cost of R20bn in order to extend the plant's lifespan by an additional 20 years.

Refurbishment began in January 2022 when an attempt was made to replace the steam generators in unit 2 (this was subsequently aborted and deferred to a future outage).

The document read that on May 9, 2023, in a presentation to Parliament, Eskom announced that unit 1 will undergo a further long outage on July 24, 2024.

Eskom requested the operating licence for the plant be split into two, one for each unit, if successful, would mean one unit reaches end of life this year, and the other next year.

According to the submission, when both units of Koeberg are operating they produce about 1.85GW, which in 2022 constituted 3.5% of national nominal capacity according to the CSIR.

In a media statement last year, Civil society groups rejected the consultation process for Koeberg’s life extension run by the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR).

The detailed report titled “Submission on Koeberg Refurbishment” was sent to the Treasury in early July 2023 by Lydia Petersen, a member of the Koeberg Alert Alliance and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI).

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