Day Zero: Eskom turns to mobile desalination to keep nuclear power station running

Feb. 16, 2018
Eskom has started operating a mobile groundwater desalination plant to supply water for its 1860 MW Koeberg nuclear power station...

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - South African electricity public utility, Eskom, has started operating a mobile groundwater desalination plant to supply water for its 1860 MW Koeberg nuclear power station.

The company said the mobile unit will “take care of the station’s water needs”, thus easing the pressure on the City of Cape Town’s water supply.

The looming threat of ‘Day Zero’ in Cape Town – the predicted day when water supplies will run out and will be shut down across the city – had originally been moved forward to April 12 due to a drop in dam levels.

However, described by officials as a “moving target”, this was then moved back to May 11 and now the date has been set to June 4.

Several reasons have contributed to what is being considered the Western Cape’s worst drought in over 100 years.

Cape Town’s population has expanded to over four million people in 2018 from 2.4 million in 1995, yet the city’s dam storage meanwhile has only increased by 15 percent. Furthermore, water consumption has increased while the region has received below average rainfall.

Without off-site potable water, the Koeberg nuclear power station can only operate for about two weeks, according to Eskom, meaning the desalination plant was needed to ensure continued water supply.

The desalination plant is part of Koeberg’s three-pronged water management strategy to address the current water shortages in the Western Cape. This includes reducing the power station’s daily water usage, keeping adequate on-site water storage and looking at alternative water supplies (groundwater and seawater).

Velaphi Ntuli, Koeberg power station manager at Eskom, said: “When the City of Cape Town called on the people of the Western Cape to address the water issue, we had to respond with a sustainable solution as a responsible corporate citizen. To this end, we have saved approximately 115,000 kl since June 2017, compared to previous averages. This equates to the City of Cape Town supplying 10.5 kl of water to approximately 11000 houses for a month. Our water tanks are kept full to cater for emergencies.”

Koeberg, Africa’s only nuclear power station, provides 50 percent of the Western Cape’s and approximately 5.6 percent of South Africa’s energy needs.


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