Cape Town - Eskom is expecting to return Unit 2 of the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station to service in two weeks’ time, despite allegedly not addressing the initial reason for the shutdown.
After more than a year of uninterrupted operation the power plant in Cape Town was shut down on January 18 for regular refuelling and maintenance outage scheduled for about 5 months.
The scope of work included the replacement of the three Steam Generators on the unit, which was allegedly not done.
It is reported that when the contractors from a French company arrived to work on the steam generators they asked questions about where the building was to house the old radioactive steam generators. Eskom allegedly overlooked safety measures, which led to delays.
The power utility has since been criticised for the “very expensive mistake” of taking Unit 2 offline which not only cost them billions of rands but also resulted in poor service delivery to South Africans who are faced with load shedding.
Eskom's spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha on Sunday announced that Stage 6 load shedding would return this on Monday afternoon with varying stages to be implemented during the week.
According to Mantshantsha this was due to generation capacity shortages.
Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse’s (OUTA) Legal Project Manager, Brendan Slade said what was concerning was that Eskom and its subcontractors had ample time to do the necessary preparations.
“Eskom has been planning to extend Koeberg’s life from as early as 2015, although this was planned without the required NNR approvals or any public consultation and the three steam generators had arrived by March 2021 but the installation was delayed until this year. The impact of the most recent delay is further exacerbated by a declining level of public confidence in the NNR, which oversees the process.”
Slade said more delays would have a snowball effect as the installed nuclear capacity will not be able to fill the generation shortfall sufficiently and will ramp up Eskom’s bill even further, a cost to be borne by the public.
According to Koeberg Alert Alliance spokesperson, Peter Becker, taking a unit of Koeberg offline during the height of the load shedding crisis was a questionable decision.
“Eskom argued that it was necessary to ensure that the plant could run beyond 2024, even though the NNR has not given approval for that extension of the life of Koeberg. The current operating licence for Koeberg from the NNR expires in July 2024. After (the French company) refused to start the work, it turned out that taking unit 2 offline in January was a very, very expensive mistake,” said Becker.
He said previously Eskom estimated that the Koeberg refurbishment will cost about R25-billion, but that was before the delays and penalties.
“Medupi not only cost more than double the initial estimates but shortly after it was completed one of the turbines was blown up due to incompetence during routine maintenance. It is not impossible that the work on Koeberg will cost R50 billion, if indeed it is ever completed,” he said.
Energy analyst Clyde Mallinson said due to the entire Koeberg life extension refurbishment process, at least one unit is planned to be offline for 19 months during 2022 and 2023. “Based on the actual figures for load shedding from 18 January to 30 June, at the same average rate these outages will cost the economy R289-billion, or R58-billion if we use Eskom’s conservative figure of R20/kWh, rather than the more widely used figure close to R100-million per kWh.
“Add to this the estimated additional spend on diesel to run Eskom and gas turbines run by Independent Power Producers.”
Eskom did not respond to claims about the French company or overlooking safety measures, among others.
“Every megawatt of capacity that is not available to generate electricity, as does Unit 2 of Koeberg and all other machines that are currently not available or partially available, does contribute to load shedding. Unit 2 will return to service during the next two weeks,” Eskom said.
Meanwhile NUM national spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said their members were back on duty following Friday’s wage negotiations at the Central Bargaining Forum (CBF).
“The citation in all power stations has been normalised and workers have fully returned. Tuesday there will be a joint shop steward council with NUMSA where we will hear if our members have accepted Eskom’s proposed offer or not,” Mammburu said.