Koe­berg on high alert over oil slick

Booms low­ered as fuel moves up the coast

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - LYNNETTE JOHNS

KOE­BERG nu­clear power sta­tion and the city’s dis­as­ter man­age­ment team is on high alert as a 300 me­tre oil slick, be­lieved to be from the iron ore car­rier Trea­sure, which sank off Koe­berg nearly 10 years ago, moves north along the coast.

Koe­berg has low­ered its in­flat­able booms at the en­trance of its wa­ter in­take basin to pre­vent oil from flow­ing into it.

Wa­ter is drawn into the power sta­tion from the basin to keep the nu­clear re­ac­tors cool.

Au­thor­i­ties last night said they be­lieved the slick posed no im­me­di­ate dan­ger to Koe­berg as it had a num­ber of ways to de­flect oil from its in­take basin.

There are how­ever fears that should the oil reach the in­take basin, Koe­berg’s re­ac­tors would have to be shut down, pos­ing a dan­ger of power cuts to the West­ern Cape.

By late yes­ter­day af­ter­noon the slick was mov­ing north three miles off the coast and the fresh south­easter was keep­ing the slick away from the shore.

But a change to a north-wester could blow the slick to­wards the coast.

There are con­cerns the slick could en­gulf Dassen Is­land with its thou­sands of coastal birds, and also reach Lange­baan and its sen­si­tive la­goon.

City of Cape Town dis­as­ter man­age­ment teams, in­clud­ing spe­cial­ist clean-up teams, law en­force­ment agen­cies, the pro­vin­cial dis­as­ter man­age­ment team, the de­fence force and the Na­tional Sea Res­cue In­sti­tute are on high alert in case the slick moves closer to the shore.

Sanc­cob, the or­gan­i­sa­tion that pro­tects coastal birds, is also on alert fear­ing that African pen­guins, Cape cor morants and Cape gan­nets on Dassen Is­land could be af­fected. The or­gan­i­sa­tion has a large team of vol­un­teers on per­ma­nent standby in case birds are oiled.

Wil­fred Solomons-Jo­hannes, the city’s dis­as­ter man­age­ment spokesman, said last night they had been placed on high alert and would re­main so un­til the dan­ger passed. “The City’s dis­as­ter plan three has been ac­ti­vated; it is an emer­gency re­sponse pro­ce­dure for Koe­berg,” Solomons-Jo­hannes said.

Marine and Coastal Man­age­ment Deputy Di­rec­tor for Marine Pol­lu­tion Dr Yazeed Peter­son said his team was as­sess­ing the sit­u­a­tion and they were all on high alert.

Peter­son said: “The power sta­tion was in­formed im­me­di­ately, and they have their own oil spill con­tin­gency plans.

“Koe­berg has taken mea­sures to pro­tect its in­take basin and at dawn they will check if any oil has come on­shore.

“Right now the slick is be­ing kept off­shore by the weather and sea con­di­tions and it should re­main so.”

Peter­son and Solomons-Jo­hannes said it ap­peared that the oil was seep­ing from the Trea­sure which sank 8km north-west of Melk­bosstrand, al­most ex­actly op­po­site Koe­berg. The site is ap­prox­i­mately 20km north of the pen­guin colony on Robben Is­land, and about 40km south of the colony on Dassen Is­land off Yz­er­fontein. The ship, which was sail­ing from Sal­danha to China with a cargo of iron ore, had 1 300 tons of fuel oil on board.

More than 16 000 coastal birds were oiled in 2000, lead­ing to the big­gest coastal bird res­cue ef­fort in South Africa.

Thou­sands more birds were driven by road to the East­ern Cape, and re­leased to swim home. Among them were three pen­guins with ra­dio trans­mit­ters dubbed Percy, Peter and Pamela, whose jour­ney back to Cape Town caught the na­tional imagination.

San­cobb vet Nola Par­sons said peo­ple on Dassen Is­land and Robben Is­land were on the look­out for oiled birds, and even though they were hop­ing the birds would not be af­fected, they were on standby to launch a res­cue ef­fort.

Eskom of­fi­cials were un­avail­able for com­ment late last night.

‘Koe­berg has taken mea­sures to pro­tect its in­take basin’

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