Koeberg Project Faces 45-Day Delay: Impact on South Africa’s Power Grid

The Koeberg nuclear power station’s extension project, designed to prolong its lifespan by 20 years, is now 45 days behind schedule. This setback will leave South Africa without one 920MW unit for the entire winter season, adding further strain to Eskom’s power grid.

  • One Koeberg unit is equivalent to one stage of load shedding
  • Eskom’s system will face increased pressure this winter

Minister of Electricity Confirms Delay

After meeting with Koeberg management, Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa confirmed the delay, stating:

  • The project will miss its 23 July target return to service due to unforeseen delays
  • Loss of 920 MW, which was expected to be available by July, during peak winter demand

Koeberg Extension: High-Risk, High-Precision Project

The extension project involves:

  1. Removing three 450-tonne steam generators from each unit
  2. Transferring them to containment buildings
  3. Replacing them with new steam generators

To date, only the first steam generator has been removed from Unit 1. A previous attempt at refurbishment failed due to inadequate preparation.

Employee Break and Unit 2 Timeline

  • Six-week mandatory break for employees before starting the same operation on Unit 2
  • Unit 2’s extension now scheduled for November, dangerously close to Koeberg’s July 2024 licence expiry
  • A new licence for extension is being sought from the National Nuclear Regulator

Winter Load Shedding Outlook

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Despite the delay, Ramokgopa does not expect load shedding to exceed Stage 6 this winter. However, he emphasizes the importance of underperforming power stations, particularly Tutuka, to improve significantly.

  • No expected improvements from Kusile before November
  • Assurance of not moving beyond Stage 6 load shedding provided
  • Plans to run peaking stations when reaching Stage 6

Balancing Diesel Consumption with Load Shedding Costs

Ramokgopa plans to set an agreed-upon maximum level of load shedding, beyond which diesel peaking plants would be used. He suggests that avoiding Stage 1 and Stage 2 load shedding may be unnecessary, but higher stages require balancing diesel burning with economic costs.

Eskom’s Diesel Funding Struggles

Since December, Eskom has struggled to find funds for diesel after overspending dramatically. Although President Cyril Ramaphosa implied that Eskom would receive funds for diesel during his State of the Nation address, this has not materialized.

  • No additional funds have been provided to Eskom for diesel
  • Eskom has been using its resources to run diesel turbines since January
  • Treasury pledged fiscal support of R254 billion, but Eskom must meet a set of conditions

Ramokgopa emphasized that Eskom must make a case if it needs additional diesel funding, stating that open-cycle gas turbines must be used to prevent higher stages of load shedding.

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