South Africa: Unit 2 Trips at Eskom’s Nuclear Power Plant

  • South Africa’s state owned energy utitiy, Eskom, has confirmed that Unit 2 tripped from full power during a routine testing of the control rod on Saturday morning.
  • There are no nuclear safety concerns.
  • The process to return the unit to service is underway.

There is mounting controversy about the proposed life extension of Koeberg. Many critics say the plant is way past its sell by date. Construction of the Koeberg nuclear power station began in 1976. Unit 1 was synchronized to the grid on 4 April 1984 while Unit 2 followed on 25 July 1985.

Related news: South Africa’s Nuclear Sector has Failed its Test: The Koeberg Nuclear Plant Life Extension

In 2010 the Eskom Board announced that the steam generator replacement and life extension programme should go ahead. In 2014 Eskom signed a R4.3-billion contract with US firm Areva. This was followed by a series of problems with the manufacturing process which resulted in the partially manufactured new steam generators being air freighted to China, and then discarded as scrap metal. Finally, three new generators were shipped to South Africa in September 2020 and have been in storage ever since. Read more

Related news: South Africa’s Nuclear Regulator CEO Resigns amid Koeberg Controversy

On the 3rd of January 2022, Eskom planned to take unit 2 offline in order to do major refurbishment work including the installation of the new steam generators despite the fact that the NNR has yet approved the life extension. Eskom then issued a media statement in mid-January that the outage was delayed as it was waiting for approval from the NNR.

Related news: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Reviews Long Term Operational Safety at Koeberg

Two weeks later, on the 17th of  January, an anonymous source revealed that the building to contain the old radioactive steam generators safely was way behind schedule. There were also rumours that the steam generators were the wrong size and would need to be modified to fit Koeberg.

Then on the 18th of January, the NNR issued Eskom with a long awaited permission to replace the steam generators at Koeberg unit 2. On the same day unit 2 was taken offline for the refurbishment work. This approval was done just after the community representative, Peter Becker, had been suspended from the NNR Board. Read more

Shortly thereafter French contractors from Framatome arrived on site for the replacement work but then refused to start the job due to the building to house the radioactive old steam generators not being ready. The contractors left and the work has been rescheduled for September 2023. Read more

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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