A whopping R20 billion has been approved for the payment of costs to cover the work around extending the life of the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station in Cape Town. This was announced by Group Chief Operating Officer, Jan Oberholzer, during Eskom’s System Status and Outlook briefing on Tuesday.
Koeberg is currently the only nuclear power station in Africa. According to reports, Koeberg has seen a lower than planned EAF (Energy Availability Factor), primarily due to the delays experienced in returning Unit 2 to service during the refuelling and maintenance outage completed in August 2022. The original outage plans included replacing the three steam generators and the reactor pressure vessel head.
However, due to a significant risk of outage overrun, a decision was taken in March 2022 to defer the steam generators from the outage scope to the next Unit 2 refuelling and maintenance outage, without impacting Koeberg’s Long-Term Operation (LTO) programme.
Inspections to justify continued operation of the unit with the then current steam generators for another cycle were also carried out successfully.
Unit 1 of Koeberg to be shut down as it undergoes maintenance
On 08 December 2022, Unit 1 of the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, which has enjoyed close to 400 days of uninterrupted supply, will also be shut down for normal maintenance and refuelling, and the replacement of the three steam generators.
The unit is anticipated to return to service during June 2023. This will remove 920MW of generation capacity from the national grid during this time.
While this may be inconvenient, Eskom says it is necessary action in the process of preserving the station and prolonging its operations.
During the presentation of the status and outlook briefing, Oberholzer said: “We’ve invested quite extensively in bringing in expert sources [for Koeberg].”
Formal application to extend Koeberg operating license
The formal application to extend the operating license was submitted to the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) and accepted for further processing during 2021.
Eskom submitted the safety case for long-term operation in support of the application on 21 July 2022 to the NNR for their evaluation. Oberholzer said that as expected, no safety concerns had been identified that would preclude LTO.
The NNR has 2 years to conclude the review and provide an outcome. It will also assess the Eskom safety case for Koeberg to ensure that it meets the national and international regulatory requirements, standards and practices for LTO, before issuing a license variation enabling operation beyond July 2024.
As part of the review of Koeberg’s life extension progress, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of nuclear experts also carried out a review of the life extension activities during March 2022
The IAEA expert team reported good progress on the work to extend the life of the plant and the final report has been provided to Eskom. It has been unrestricted, enabling the report to be accessible to the public. Both recommendations and the suggestions contained in the report are included in the scope of work that needs to be completed.