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Activists dispute Eskom’s assurance on the length of Koeberg’s refuelling switch-off

The Koeberg Alert Alliance (KAA) accused Eskom of being disingenuous to call the operation a regular refuelling outage. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency/ANA

The Koeberg Alert Alliance (KAA) accused Eskom of being disingenuous to call the operation a regular refuelling outage. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency/ANA

Published Jan 17, 2022

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Cape Town - As Unit 2 of the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station goes offline today for a five-month “regular refuelling and maintenance outage”, anti-nuclear activists have questioned the utility’s sincerity on the length of the outage.

This will be the 25th refuelling outage on Unit 2 since commissioning, and will also see the replacement of the unit’s three steam generators.

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During this outage the reactor pressure vessel head, which houses the nuclear fuel while the station is in operation, will also be replaced.

On Saturday, Eskom’s chief nuclear officer Riedewaan Bakardien said: “When Koeberg Unit 2 shuts down on Monday, it will have been online, safely generating electricity, for 452 days without any interruption since its last refuelling outage, which was completed in October 2020."

However the Koeberg Alert Alliance (KAA) accused Eskom of being disingenuous to call the operation a regular refuelling outage.

“It is about as accurate as saying your car is going to the mechanic for refuelling, and by the way while busy filling the tank they will also replace the gearbox.

“A refuelling outage takes just over four weeks, and this outage will be either 90 days, 150 days, 155 days or 165 days depending on which Eskom statement one chooses to believe.”

They said previous statements by Eskom said 155 days, and a presentation by Eskom in November 2021 said it would be 165 days (nearly 24 weeks) before the unit could be connected to the grid again.

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KAA spokesperson Peter Becker said Eskom was likely to come under pressure from businesses to delay this long-term outage since load shedding would be economically very damaging.

He said the best decision Eskom could make was to delay the refuelling outage, and abandon the refurbishment project so that load shedding could be minimised.

“With the money they would spend on the life extension refurbishment Eskom could install Gigawatts of solar power, for example,” said Becker.

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“New renewable plants can easily be installed and come online within two years, well before Koeberg reaches the end of its current life in 2024.”

[email protected]

Cape Argus

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