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Areva nuclear info leak could hurt Eskom's court battle

Aug 10 2016 11:40
Paul Burkhardt

Johannesburg - State-owned power utility Eskom Holdings, said on Wednesday it is investigating an information leak at the Koeberg nuclear plant that could affect a court case related to a R5bn contract awarded to Areva for work at the facility.

The power producer hasn’t determined whether the leak was intentional, spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said by phone. Koeberg’s station and plant managers were put on precautionary suspension after distribution of the documentation.

The data was given “to one of the said parties who are related to the steam-generator replacement programme and it was information that had still not been approved by the board,” Phasiwe said.

A safety officer was also suspended after a drone crashed at the plant in an unrelated incident, according to Eskom.

READ: No load shedding for 1 year, but Eskom sees strikes, leaks and drones

Westinghouse Electric Co has contested the contract to replace the generators at the Koeberg plant near Cape Town since it was granted to Paris-based Areva in 2014. South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal ruled on December 9 that Eskom must review the award after an “unlawful and procedurally unfair” decision by the utility.

The steam generator award is now at the constitutional court, according to Phasiwe. “The information was given to a said party and it might actually compromise our position as we go through this constitutional court matter,” he said, declining to identify who received the information.

READ: Yelland questions Eskom’s ‘vehement defence’ of Areva AND Eskom's response.

Drone crash

Eskom also suspended a Koeberg safety officer as a precautionary measure after a drone struck the plant site and the matter has been referred to police, it said. The nuclear facility is classified as a National Key Point, which applies to assets of strategic importance.

The outcome of the investigations will give Eskom clues as to what the next step will be, but there is a possibility of laying criminal charges against the suspended employees, “especially in the case of the drone,” Phasiwe said.

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