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Pelindaba nuclear facility in South Afric a has yet another nuclear safety scare

Another nuclear safety scare at Pelindaba as management fumbles, amaBhungane, 7 June 18 

Whistleblowers have accused the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation of sidelining qualified staff in favour of inexperienced technicians. 

Another safety incident has shaken the Pelindaba nuclear facility outside Johannesburg, resulting in the total shutdown of the NTP Radioisotopes plant which produces vital supplies of nuclear medicine and radiation-based products.

Senior NTP staff point fingers at parent company the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa).

The sudden halt in production, which can be lifted only once the National Nuclear Regulator gives the all-clear, threatens global medicine supply.

AmaBhungane understands that the NTP facility was shut down after a dangerous spike in hydrogen gas levels was detected last Thursday (May 31). This, according to a senior technical employee, “could have resulted in an explosion”.

Necsa group chief executive Phumzile Tshelane, speaking on behalf of Necsa and NTP, ignored most questions put to him, saying: “We cannot disclose classified information.”

He did, however, attempt to downplay the incident. “This was a minor incident followed by vigilant safety protocols which ensured that there is no danger as alleged by your source.”

Tshelane cautioned against what he called “dangerous and alarmist allegations”.

This is the latest in a string of setbacks for NTP, the owner of the plant. In November last year, the plant was shuttered by the nuclear regulator after faulty calibrations in an instrument for analysing hydrogen levels.

Several employees claimed that since the November incident the new acting management brought in to get the plant restarted has bungled the recovery process and created unsafe work conditions.

……. AmaBhungane is in possession of correspondence between the regulator and Necsa/NTP from February to May that suggests the recovery process has been far from smooth.

The correspondence paints a picture of a breakdown of safety culture at the plant, where those working on returning the facility to full production are out of their depth.

In their communications with Necsa/NTP, the regulator flags among other things: the submission of falsified results; inaccuracies in tables submitted; the failure to demonstrate repeatability of tests; the unsuitability of a particular individual to provide theoretical training to NTP staff; a lack of due diligence in calibration; failure to submit hydrogen calibration schedules; and a repeated failure to address the poor quality of graphs.

In a letter from March, the regulator writes: “Noting the falsification of information, highlighted by the regulator… and recognising that that similar issue (sic) was previously raised by the regulator… Necsa/NTP Management is required to confirm what action(s) have been taken with regard to this matter.”

The protected disclosure also notes two separate incidents that were incorrectly handled by Necsa deployees.

According to the disclosure, on 28 December the concentration of hydrogen in one of the reactor’s cells exceeded the permissible limit. ……..http://amabhungane.co.za/article/2018-06-07-another-nuclear-safety-scare-at-pelindaba-as-management-fumbles

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June 8, 2018 - Posted by | safety, South Africa

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