Mounting Concerns Over Koeberg Nuclear Power Station’s Operational Capacity

A Worrisome Outlook for Koeberg

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa expressed growing trepidation on Monday over the potential delayed return of Koeberg nuclear power station’s unit 1 to service in Cape Town. Currently, the unit is undergoing a maintenance outage for a steam generator replacement, which, according to Eskom, was supposed to be completed by mid-September.

The Implications of Overlapping Maintenance Schedules

Meanwhile, unit 2 is due for a six-month shutdown for a similar procedure in October. The concern is that if unit 1 doesn’t resume operations on schedule, South Africa could witness both units out of service simultaneously. This could deprive the nation of an additional 920MW of critical generation capacity (each unit boasts a capacity of 920MW, nearly a full stage of the 1,000MW load-shedding).

“I have asked for a more detailed report [on Koeberg] and the more we get an indication of what the issues are the more we are getting very, very, very worried,” Ramokgopa confessed to the press in Pretoria on Monday.

His planned visit to Koeberg for an update was deferred last week due to other pressing matters, however, he affirms it will be a priority this week.

“Once we have an overlap of unit 1 not coming on stream and unit 2 having to be taken off [for maintenance] the net picture is that we would have lost 920MW from where we are now…. That is a huge dent on our generating capacity. That is something we want to avert at all cost,” Ramokgopa stressed.

Maintenance Delays: A Chronic Issue

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The nuclear power station has seen numerous setbacks in its maintenance operations. The steam generator replacement on unit 1 was initially scheduled between February and June 2021, and unit 2’s was set for January to May 2022. However, both projects have been postponed until 2023.

Future Implications

The steam generator replacements are crucial maintenance procedures that the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) needs completed to determine the safety of extending Koeberg’s operational life for another 20 years. This decision is pivotal as the plant’s current operating license is set to expire in July 2024.