Activists raise doubt over reliability, safety of Koeberg Power Station

South Africa - Cape Town - 4 January 2021 - Koeberg nuclear power station sign. Photo: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

South Africa - Cape Town - 4 January 2021 - Koeberg nuclear power station sign. Photo: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 7, 2021


Cape Town – Half of the Koeberg Power Station being down since January contradicts the justification that nuclear power is reliable and cheap for the procurement of more nuclear power for the extension of the life of the plant, the Koeberg Alert Alliance (KAA) said.

“Eskom is currently experiencing load shedding that is affecting the entire country and its economy,” KAA said.

“One of Eskom’s biggest generating units with a capacity of 900MW, Koeberg Unit 1, has been on an outage since January 2021, and could have assisted in reducing the depth of load shedding had the unit been brought back on time as originally planned.”

KAA said investigations into the performance of the station were under way following the suspension of the power station's general manager Velaphi Ntuli.

In a statement, Eskom said its chief nuclear officer Riedewaan Bakardien would oversee all the operations of the station.

Eskom said there were no nuclear safety concerns at Koeberg, and if needed, the required time would be taken to complete all the outstanding work-scope before returning unit 1 to the grid.

“Eskom leadership has been concerned with outage performance at Koeberg nuclear power plant, and the recent outage on Unit 1 has again been plagued with delays resulting in significant slippage on the return to service date. The unit is currently planned to return to service during the third week of June,” the parastatal said.

Environment Minister Barbara Creecy was expected to make a final decision on granting of Eskom permission to build a new plant at the Duynefontein site.

The KAA said the Koeberg plant itself is old and deteriorating more rapidly than expected, but Eskom wants approval to extend its life by another 20 years.

“Presumably an under-performing plant manager has also neglected effectively managing things in other areas such as maintenance, repairs and the emergency readiness,” the group said.

“When it comes to the next person appointed to the position, the message is clear: keep the plant running or face suspension. This is deeply problematic. Any new manager will be conflicted between exercising an abundance of caution for the sake of safety, and keeping the plant running for fear of suspension,” the KAA said.

“The reason for this suspension is performance, as half the Koeberg plant has been down since January 2021. This is embarrassing to Eskom particularly at a time when some are trying to claim that nuclear power is reliable and cheap. In the hands of Eskom, a nuclear plant is more dangerous than reliable.”

Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) Energy Adviser Liziwe McDaid said any nuclear industry needs a strong regulator.

“We want to see the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) report on the current situation which should be a public document,” McDaid said.

Cape Times

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