The refurbishment of Koeberg, South Africa’s only nuclear power station, seems to be running overtime again. There is now a possibility that both units will be out of service at the same time, which will mean that higher stages of load shedding will continue into 2024.
Minister of Electricity’s Concerns
Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa says that he is “very, very worried” that the Koeberg refurbishment is behind schedule. At a briefing on the state of the electricity supply on Monday, Ramokgopa said he would visit the plant this week. He said: “I’ve asked for a more detailed report, and the more we get an indication of what the issues are, the more we are getting very, very, very worried. It is something that requires urgent attention. Once we have an overlap of unit 1 not coming on stream and unit 2 having to be taken out, the net picture will be that from where we are now, we will have lost (another) 920MW.”
Extension of Life Project
Koeberg is undergoing an extension of life project which involves the replacement of all the steam generators in both units. Each unit generates 920MW, almost equivalent to a stage of load shedding. The project, which was supposed to start in January 2022, has been subject to numerous delays.
Further Delay in Life-Extension
Further delay in life-extension of Koeberg nuclear reactor worsens power outlook. Ramokgopa said if the outages of the two units overlapped, it would be “a huge dent” in Eskom’s generating capacity.
The licence for Koeberg to continue operating expires in July 2024, after which it must close unless the plant has been successfully refurbished and relicensed. The outage of unit 1 eventually began in January and was expected to be completed by July. Unit 2 was expected to go on outage in September. This unit 1 deadline has already been delayed until September, with Ramokgopa’s comments indicating this will have to be extended again.
Ramokgopa – who two weeks ago announced that Eskom had turned a corner only for the utility only to be hit again by Stage 6 load shedding – said that he believed SA was now through the worst of winter. He did not expect load shedding to reach Stage 7 or 8, he said.
Eskom had been hit by “a perfect storm”, with the loss of an additional 3 900MW than the recent trend and an increase in demand of 3 000MW due to last week’s cold weather. The minister said Eskom had also dropped the ball on planning and allowed diesel and pumped storage levels to run low. A major cause of last week’s poor performance was boiler tube leaks, which have plagued Eskom for at least the past five years.
“We are of the opinion that we rode out the most difficult period […] At this point we really don’t anticipate going to higher stages of load shedding, we think we have got this under control […] I can never speak in absolute terms but this is just to indicate the extent to which we don’t think we will go to higher stages of load shedding.”
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