In line with regulatory compliance for the management of a nuclear power station, regular safety exercises are held which involve a broad range of different agencies, which come together to practice their response coordination activities for dealing with any emergency which may threaten the safety of citizens living in the vicinity.
This exercise was led and coordinated by the City of Cape Town Disaster Risk Management Centre in Goodwood. Designated representatives from a broad range of agencies were assembled at Goodwood DRM to experience the full progression of the exercise from the first initial contacts, through the escalation levels, coordination, and the stand down and debriefing. Not only were there representatives participating from various provincial and city departments responsible for health and safety, water and sanitation, traffic services, environmental affairs and tourism, education, emergency medical services, recreation & parks, fire & rescue, agriculture, corporate media, human settlements, but also agencies such as HAMNET, Robben Island Museum, the SPCA, SABC media, SA National Defence Force, SA Police Service, Golden Arrow Bus Services, MyCiti busses, and a Koeberg technical advisor. As the Strategic Room was fully occupied, an upstairs auditorium was utilised for the monitoring by agencies such as the National Nuclear Regulator and others who could listen in to all the communications and watch the proceedings on projection screens which mirrored the video wall in the Strategic Room.
On Thursday 22 September 2022 the exercise was triggered in the early morning with an Unusual Event being declared by Koeberg to the City of Cape Town Disaster Risk Management Centre, for a simulated problem involving their pressurised water systems. This level is also triggered by anything unusual, such as a veld fire in their vicinity, jellyfish blocking a water cooling intake, etc. The Koeberg Station would normally try to deal with this alert level resolution on-site themselves. Every written and verbal communication was preceded with the words “THIS IS AN EXERCISE” to prevent any misinformation being broadcast outside of the exercise.
Bulk SMS messages were received by all participants to inform them of the situation. Normally, if this type of situation had developed at Koeberg, it would have escalated over a period of 2 or 3 days, but for the purposes of the exercise the time scale was compressed, so a while later Koeberg simulated some containment issues based on the loss of Fission product barriers, and they declared an Alert event level which was sent out to us by SMS necessitating the onsite assembly of the role-players at the Strategic and Tactical Rooms.
From this point our various teams reported our arrivals, and updates were sent through, using formatted message sheets. HAMNET, according to its plan, dispatched two members with one being present for the Strategic Room, and the other ready to man the radio room if required. HAMNET also sent a message to state it had additional members on standby if required for deployment to areas that had lost communications.
The exercise escalated through the Site Emergency severity level to one of General Emergency where members of the public and schools were to be evacuated within a certain radius downwind of the Koeberg station with the assistance of two bus services. At this stage roadblocks and holding points were in place, a Mass Care Centre had been established upwind of the station, frisking for radioactivity and decontamination were being performed, dosimeters were issued, and Potassium Iodide tablets were being issued or administered where needed.
At midday, after the simulated emergency had been contained, we all received the stand down SMS, and a lengthy debriefing period started. Every agency gave their feedback and a critique of their own performance, including many suggestions for future improvements. There was unanimous agreement by all the agencies, as well as observers, that the exercise had been a great success.
The purpose of the exercise was not just to perform all the procedural steps as per the planning, but more importantly to see how all the different agencies cooperated together as a team, and also to forge relationships with those who we will be working together with in future, if any real disaster requires it. And to this end the exercise was also a great success.
HAMNET was not required to deploy into the field as part of this exercise, but the role we were prepared for, was to bridge any communication gaps that might have arisen resulting from flat batteries and a blackout situation for the cell-phone towers or the TETRA radio network. As recently as two months ago, HAMNET WC had done a hands-on demonstration to the City and Provincial Disaster Managements, showing that we could establish radio communications across the Western Cape Province in the absence of any telephones or Internet connectivity. This is also the reason the City of Cape Town DRMC had funded and set aside a dedicated radio communications room for HAMNET to manage on their behalf.
HAMNET Western Cape was represented by Danie van der Merwe ZS1OSS and Dave Reece ZS1DFR.
Included is a picture of our dedicated radio room at Goodwood Disaster Risk Management Centre, which has facilities for all the usual amateur bands, crossband relays and all the usual digital modes, as well as monitoring of Aircraft and Marine traffic. We are linked to the internet, and run Echolink relays from here.
The station was established by Alister van Tonder ex ZS1OK, now ZS2OK, and is currently managed by Danie van der Merwe ZS1OSS. Its call sign is ZS1DCC.
Report prepared by Danie ZS1OSS