Good news for Eskom’s Koeberg nuclear power station

 ·6 May 2024

Power utility Eskom says that the life extension at the Koeber Nuclear Power Plant is on track and that unit 2 should be back online in September 2024 as scheduled.

General Manager of the plant, Velaphi Ntuli, updated the Western Cape energy council on the refurbishments last week.

Koeberg is going through a life refurbishment programme to extend its lifespan to 2044/45.

Unit 1 was taken online in December 2022 for what was supposed to be a six month process, expected to be back online by June 2023.

However, after suffering several delays, the project’s completion date was pushed back to November 1 2023. Unit 1 was synchronised to the grid in November 2023 and has since been online for 166 days.

Unit 2 was taken off in December and is on schedule to be back in operation by 30 September 2024.

Ntuli said the long-term operation (LTO) process documentation for the plant has also been submitted and is being reviewed by the National Nuclear Regulator.

The return of Koeberg Unit 2 is fundamental for sustained and reliable energy generation in South Africa as the nuclear units have proven to be some of the most reliable in the Eskom fleet.

According to the power utility, the return of Koeberg unit 2 will add 980MW back to the grid, and along with the return of Medupi unit 4 (800MW) and the synchronisation of Kusile Unit 6 (also 800MW) are key to boosting the grid by almost 3000MW.

Eskom’s energy generation is currently benefitting from a reduction in breakdowns and improved capacity boosted by temporary measures at Kusile.

At some point, these temporary measures will have to be replaced with permanent ones, and the boosted capacity from Koeberg and Medupi is key to ensuring that supply is sufficient.

Downtime ahead

While the work being done at Koeberg power station is critical for the future of South Africa’s energy production, it will not be operating at full capacity for at least two years.

As reported by MyBroadband, the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) — the organisation responsible for deciding whether extending the power station’s operating licence is safe — confirmed that the units would face further outages after the steam generator replacements.

Each will face a 200-day outage following the completion of unit 2’s steam generator replacement to assess the reactors’ concrete containment structures, which are starting to show cracks.

“For the next foreseeable years, there will be seldom both units operating at the same time,” said Peter Bester, programme manager for nuclear power stations at the NNR.

Read: Massive turn for load shedding in South Africa: Eskom

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