Koeberg on high alert over oil slick
Booms lowered as fuel moves up the coast
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’