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Koeberg workers contaminated

Sep 20 2010 20:12

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Johannesburg - A total of 91 Eskom workers were contaminated with a small amount of radiation while doing maintenance work at the Koeberg power plant, the parastatal said on Monday.

During maintenance on Koeberg Unit One, 91 workers tested positive for cobalt 58 as they left the site on September 12, said Eskom spokesperson Karen de Villiers.

The workers then had body scans to search for the radiation. It is believed that they were contaminated with airborne radiation, possibly from dust particles.

The site was shut down for two days while tests were conducted

The Democratic Alliance has accused Eskom of mishandling the contamination and risking the health of workers.

"The DA has been informed by an inside source at Koeberg that workers at the plant were not immediately evacuated, contrary to the claims by an Eskom spokesperson," said DA MP and spokesperson for public enterprises Pieter van Dalen.

De Villiers said the radiation the workers were exposed to was low, about 0.5% of the annually allowed exposure limit.

"Frankly, they would pick up more radiation from a couple of plane trips to Joburg," she said.

De Villiers added that cobalt 58 was a 'very short-lived radiation' and would leave the bodies of the workers easily.

She said the workers would continue to be monitored in the coming weeks.

The site at Koeberg Unit One was shut for two days while tests were being conducted.

She said the company also counselled the workers on the contamination.

"We had a chat with the workers because the issue was an emotional one," said De Villiers.

Van Dalen said Eskom was 'downplaying' the matter and the party would ask the government for an inquiry.

"It is concerning that Eskom would downplay this matter. It is clear that an investigation needs to take place, to ensure that any mistakes that have occurred are not repeated," he said.

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