Koeberg Unit 1 to return to service 3 November

  • Eskom’s chief nuclear officer Keith Featherstone on Thursday, confirmed that Koeberg Unit 1 will return to service by 3 November 2023.
  • The Koeberg Unit 1 refuelling and maintenance plus steam generator replacement commenced on 10 December 2022 and was meant to return to service in July 2023 but the work has been plagued by delays and cost overruns.

Featherstone made the announcement during a media engagement organised by Western Cape Premier Alan Winde on Thursday. He said that said the steam generator replacement at Unit 1 was complete, and he was confident that the unit will be operational by 3 November. Featherstone explained that they got it wrong in judging how long it would take to replace the generators. “In a nutshell, we were overly optimistic in terms of what we thought we could achieve, and in hindsight, if we could have done it differently, we would have scheduled a longer time for this intervention,” he said.

“This is deeply worrying for all Western Cape residents,” said Premier Winde recently. He added, “I note remarks made by Electricity Minister, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, recently where he too expressed his concern. In light of his remarks, I believe that it is fair to ask that the Minister do all he can to establish what exactly is holding up the process, what is required to expedite the work and to take  South Africans into his confidence and give an honest account of what has caused these worrying delays. More importantly, we need to know what steps are being taken to protect our energy supply due to these delays.”

When work on unit 1 is eventually completed, unit 2 will have to come offline for up to 9 months for steam generators to be replaced. This will likely lead to more power outages in the coming two years. Each unit generates 920MW. The Premier said, “If both units are out of service at the same time, blackouts will intensify significantly. The Western Cape is in an especially precarious predicament, and it would be disastrous for our residents and our economy. I will be discussing these delays and the steps we as the Western Cape Government (WCG) would like to see taken by Eskom at our Energy Council next week. I appeal to Minister Ramokgopa to prioritise the Koeberg project. My energy team and I stand ready to help the Minister wherever we can.”

Koberg spent fuel pool. Image credit: NNR

Koeberg, Africa’s only nuclear facility, is situated about 35 km (21.75 miles) from Cape Town and was connected to the grid in the 1980s under apartheid. Koeberg produces about 32 tonnes of spent fuel a year. Fuel assemblies, which contain radioactive materials including uranium and plutonium that can remain dangerous for thousands of years, are cooled for a decade under water in spent fuel pools located under the plant. Eskom is currently using reinforced dry storage casks from U.S. energy company Holtec International to store spent fuel while the life extension programme is ongoing.

Read more on the major problems at Koeberg Nuclear Plant HERE 

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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