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  Limiting the impact on the environment      
 

Waste

As a generator, transmitter and distributor of electricity, our significant waste streams are ash (a by-product of the coal burned) and nuclear power station radioactive waste material. As part of our commitment to phase-out polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and asbestos-containing materials these two significant waste materials are removed and disposed of.

Quantities of waste disposed of at registered waste sites

 

  Unit of  
measure  
2009   2008   2007  
Materials containing asbestos   tons   3 590,8LA   321,0   6 060,0  
Material containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)   tons   505,6LA   17,0   10,0  
Volume of low-level radioactive waste (Koeberg)1   m3   189,0RA   270,0   135,0  
Volume of intermediate-level radioactive waste (Koeberg)1   m3   473,6RA   418,0   436,0  
Ash (approximate)  Mt   36,7LA   36,0   34,2  
RA Reasonable Assurance provided by the independent assurance provider (refer here).
LA Limited Assurance provided by the independent assurance provider (refer here).
1. Sent to the Vaalputs National Radioactive Waste Repository.
 

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
We continue to participate in the DEAT national implementation plan (NIP) in terms of the Stockholm Convention for Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) (Sectoral Focus Group 3: PCB Assessment). In line with this, we are committed to the phasing out of PCBs by 2025.

PCBs are not generated in Eskom but are found in dielectric fluid used in some electrical equipment, such as transformers and capacitors, for electrical insulation and thermal cooling.

Over the past 12 years, our management practices relating to PCBs have included:
  • handling, storage, testing and labelling of PCB-contaminated equipment (based on SANS 0290: 2008: Mineral Insulating Oils – Management and Handling of Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB)). This standard covers the requirements, classification, labelling, handling, storage, transportation, decontamination and disposal of PCB-contaminated oil
  • compilation of inventories of PCB-containing equipment
  • development of phase-out plans that meet the requirements of the Stockholm Convention

We verify the inventories regularly to ensure that the management of PCBs is in line with our procedures and in line with the requirements of the SANS 0290: 2008 standard.

Phase-out plans exist within the operational line divisions that deal with PCBs. These plans have been factored into current and future refurbishment and expansion plans.

The table below gives an overview of our PCB inventory indicating the equipment that contains 50ppm or more of PCBs. Over the last seven years we have phased out over 950 tons of PCB-containing equipment through thermal destruction. Equipment is thermally treated and the solid residue tested for the presence of PCBs after treatment. The residue is reclassified as non-hazardous and landfilled.

Ash
Of the approximately 36,7 million tons (2008: 36,0 million tons) of coal ash produced at the coal-fired power stations over the 12-month period, 5,7% (2008: 7%) was recycled. The recycled ash from Lethabo, Matla, Kendal and Majuba power stations is used for the production of cement.

The remaining ash is disposed of in ash dams and dumps next to our power stations. These are then rehabilitated to control fugitive dust.

Eskom equipment containing PCB
Description   Number     Status of equipment     Comment  
Number of pieces of Eskom equipment
containing ≥ 50ppm PCB  
17 086     Currently in use     Comprises transformers,
capacitor cans, auxiliary
equipment  
 
Nuclear
Volume of nuclear waste generated at Koeberg:
  Unit of  
measure  
2009   2008   2007  
Low-level radioactive waste   m3   140,8   180,3   94,5  
Intermediate-level radioactive waste   m3   23,8   26,8   36,0  
Spent nuclear fuel elements (cumulative)  number   56 (1 729)  112 (1 673)  56 (1 561) 
 

The low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste from Koeberg power station is sealed in steel drums and concrete containers, respectively. This waste is disposed of at the Vaalputs national radioactive waste repository. This is a near-surface disposal site for radioactive waste, licensed by the National Nuclear Regulator and operated by Necsa. All the spent fuel (high-level waste) from the power station is stored inside the power station in fuel pools.

A truck unloads concrete drums with intermediate-level waste from Koeberg at Vaalputs
 
The Koeberg reactor contains fuel pools for the spent fuel
 
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