Desalination plant to be installed at Koeberg Power Station

May 30th, 2017, Published in Articles: Energize


Eskom is planning to install a desalination plant at the Koeberg nuclear power station. The objective of this project is to reduce Koeberg’s dependency on, and consumption of, municipal water supplied by the City of Cape Town for use at the power station. 

Koeberg Power Station.

Eskom will initially use a mobile desalination unit to supply the power station with desalinated ground water. This effort contributes to the city’s goal, which is to reduce water consumption by 100 Ml per day.

Cape Town is in a drought crisis, and it is predicted that this will certainly not be the city’s last. Dam levels are dropping at an alarming rate. According to recent media reports, dam levels are currently just above 20%, and the consumption rate is still higher than the target rate of 600 Ml a day.

The City has put plans in place to augment supply while also implementing demand-reduction initiatives. However, Cape Town is in a water-scarce region and is experiencing an increase in frequency and severity of drought events.

The water levels in the six big dams which supply 99% of Cape Town’s potable water indicate that the average rain water captured each year is not enough to supply all the city’s water needs. Thus, should Cape Town get the same rainfall as the previous three years, this crisis will repeat itself.

Counting on rainfall alone is therefore not a sustainable solution. Cape Town will need to get an above average rainfall as compared to the previous three years and reduce consumption significantly.

The Koeberg nuclear power station, located near Cape Town, currently uses about 1,3 Ml of fresh water per day. In the light of the current drought situation, the power station’s managers are driving various water saving initiatives to reduce potable water consumption by at least a third in the short term.

Some of these initiatives include limiting the amount of water used by various ventilation systems on the plant and using ground water to cool some of the heat loads. These initiatives exceed the mandatory requirements currently in force as part of the water restrictions implemented by the city.

Koeberg’s positive impact on the Western Cape economy was recently highlighted by an economic impact assessment study done by KPMG. A water crisis poses a threat to businesses and residents alike. Eskom is of the view that the water crisis currently faced by the City of Cape Town cannot be the sole responsibility of the city to resolve.

Risk management is one of Eskom’s priorities and the management team has put in place a robust risk management process which is used to identify, evaluate, mitigate and where applicable, treat risk. The current water crisis has been evaluated as a Level 1 risk for Eskom’s operations at the Koeberg nuclear power station. As a result, this risk is receiving attention at the highest level in the organisation.

In response to this, Eskom has decided to install a ground water desalination plant at Koeberg. This process entails removing salts and other contaminants from ground water to make it suitable for human consumption. In this instance, ground water from the aquarium located near the power station will be desalinated for use at Koeberg nuclear power station for its daily needs.

The objective of this project is to reduce Koeberg’s dependency on, and consumption of, municipal water supplied by the City of Cape Town. This effort contributes to the city’s goal, which is to reduce water consumption by 100 Ml per day.

It will also ensure that the power station has an adequate supply of water available, should the City of Cape Town run out of water.

In addition, the implementation of a desalination plant will provide Koeberg with a reliable water supply during drought periods to ensure safe and reliable operations.

The implementation of a desalination plant is split into two phases.

The first phase would be an installation of a simplified mobile unit. The second phase would focus more on the strengthening and integration of the desalination plant with other systems in the power station to increase its capacity.

Koeberg already has a useful water infrastructure and the required permits for ground water desalination.  The fact that ground water desalination is now much more cost-effective than previously supports the implementation of a desalination plant.

It is important for Eskom to mitigate and even eliminate the risk posed by the shortage of water in the Western Cape to operations at Koeberg. Given the importance of the Koeberg nuclear power station to the Western Cape economy and to South Africa, it is essential for Koeberg to be resilient.

As a result, Koeberg has seen the need to fast track the implementation of a desalination plant to ensure that the risk posed by the current drought to its operations is limited.

Eskom has set stringent targets for implementing this project. A request for proposals has been published on Eskom’s website, calling for appropriate suppliers to respond. The risk to meeting the challenging implementation schedule that has been set out by Eskom will be the ability of the market to appropriately respond to Eskom’s request in time.

In addition to the initiatives that are under way at Koeberg, Eskom is collaborating with the City of Cape Town to pilot a sea water desalination plant using some of the Koeberg’s infrastructure. This project will provide the city with the necessary information to decide on the viability of similar projects on a large scale.

Like electricity, adequate and reliable supply of water is essential for the economic sustainability of the city. Eskom has taken a stance to be part of the solution by availing itself of resources to help alleviate the situation, while mitigating the risk to its operations at Koeberg nuclear power station.


This article was first published by Fin24 and is republished here with permission.

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