ENVIRONMENT: World Spotlight On Nuclear Power
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Cape Town - Uranium mining, the beneficiation of uranium ore within South Africa, nuclear power and associated environmental issues are currently attracting considerable attention. Over the past three years, SRK Consulting has been involved in major national initiatives covering many of these issues in projects for several major clients.
On the mining side, the Cape Town office has worked with SRK North America, and the Gauteng-based mining team, on a definitive feasibility study for Areva investigating the Ryst Kuil uranium prospect near Beaufort West. This is a low grade uranium deposit extending over a strike length of about 120 km, hosted by sandstones of the Karoo Sequence. It is anticipated that the mine will consist mainly of underground workings.
In this project, SRK SA, a South African founded global group of consulting engineers and scientists, has been looking at groundwater supply, impacts of mining on groundwater levels and quality, potential inflows into mine workings and the control of inflows. They have also installed a groundwater monitoring network to assess groundwater levels and quality with time and responses to environmental factors.
On the nuclear power side, Peter Rosewarne, principal hydrogeologist and partner of SRK Consulting in the Western Cape, together with Derry Holmes, SRK project manager, have been managing the Site Safety Report Project for Eskom, which will support their licence application for greenfield and brownfield sites for the development of new nuclear power plants. This multi-million rand project involves a large team of technical specialists that includes those from other SRK offices and other independent consulting companies. Apart from project management, SRK is responsible for investigating site technical aspects such as geotechnics, geohydrology, hydrology and water supply.
A separate environmental impact assessment (EIA) process is running in parallel to assess the environmental suitability of sites for the establishment of new nuclear power plants. SRK is responsible for producing specialist study reports on aspects such as geotechnics, geohydrology, and hydrology.
SRK is also currently assisting the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) Company in work at the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station site, about 30 km north of Cape Town. This assignment involves a six year groundwater monitoring project and an Integrated Storm Water Management project at the site of the proposed PBMR Demonstration Power Plant.
Global sentiment towards nuclear power generation has changed over the past few years because of its lesser impact on greenhouse gas emissions compared to some other technologies.
“Several countries, such as the UK, France and the USA, are re-visiting nuclear power as the way forward,” Rosewarne said. “There are a number of nuclear power stations currently being built and many on order around the world and the UK has recently published a list of candidate sites for consideration for new nuclear power stations.” Reflecting this trend, South Africa is hosting an international conference under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency and National Nuclear Regulator in Cape Town in December 2009 on Effective Nuclear Regulatory Systems.
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