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S.Africa’s Eskom confident about nuclear plant safety

Published on 08/04/2011

South Africa's coal-dependent power supplier Eskom said Friday it was confident about the safety of its nuclear power plant, which is designed to withstand a 7.0-magnitude earthquake.

“As with all nuclear owning utilities globally, Eskom will learn from the experience in Japan,” Eskom chief executive Brian Dames said.

“Koeberg is designed to withstand an earthquake of level 7 on the Richter scale,” he added.

The plant which is located on the Western Cape coast provides 6.5 percent of the country’s 40,000-megawatt power supply, which is mostly coal-generated.

Last month Eskom said it was seeking approval for six new nuclear reactors, which are expected to contribute 9,600 megawatts to the national supply.

The state-owned power utility also announced that power supply would remain tight over the next five years especially in 2011 and 2012, as the firm upgrades its aging infrastructure.

Dames said the peak demand and total energy sent out for 2010 was almost back to levels seen in 2007, before the recession.

The year-on-year energy growth for 2010 compared with 2009 was just over four percent, the company said.

“We are managing a tight power system,” Dames told journalists.

South Africa’s increasing electricity demand saw the rolling blackouts in 2008 which shut down the key mining industry and dented business confidence.

Eskom has in the past years acquired loans to boost infrastructure and explore the renewables.