Koeberg nuclear power plant in a race against time to keep SA’s lights on

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Pippa Hudson speaks with energy analysis professor Hartmut Winkler, a physicist at the University of Johannesburg, about concerns surrounding the Koeberg nuclear power plant, amid resignations and delays in getting it back up to full capacity.

-Delays in maintenance work at Koeberg will impact the power grid

-Maintenance work must be completed for Koeberg’s license renewal in 2024

-An analyst has warned that if deadlines are not met, the power grid will be under the same pressure next year

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Eskom’s Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant in Cape Town, South Africa. © hijackhippo/123rf.com

As South Africans brave continued and disruptive power outages, questions arise over the viability of the Koeberg nuclear power plant to supply the national power grid.

Operations at Koeberg have been disrupted this year, due to the maintenance of two units.

The units were to be offline for six months each for the renovations, but the process was delayed.

Will the nuclear power plant be able to regain its full capacity?

Pippa Hudson spoke to energy analyst Professor Hartmut Winkler, a physicist at the University of Johannesburg, about the delays at Koeberg,

They are not on schedule. These major modifications to both units were planned to be completed by mid-June, just before the period of heavy load shedding that we experienced in June and July. With that complete, the other unit would have started later this month. And now they are not over.

Professor Hartmut Winkler, energy analyst and physicist from the University of Johannesburg

Another setback is the maintenance work on the steam generators, necessary for the renewal of the license in 2024. If the license is not renewed, Koeberg will not be allowed to operate beyond this date.

Koeberg is equivalent to two stages of load shedding. Already in July the fact that one unit was extinct meant that we had stage 6. So it is worrying that they did not do the main work, to make the changes necessary to extend the license for 20 years additional.

Professor Hartmut Winkler, energy analyst and physicist from the University of Johannesburg

Winkler predicts that the power grid will be under the same pressure in 2024 as this year, due to aging other Eskom plants.

He hopes work on Koeberg’s second unit will begin soon, to avoid a repeat of this year’s electricity crisis.

Over the past year, Eskom has tended to err on the side of caution. So I hope it will be the end of July. Other units will not be able to disconnect until this work is done. This has been postponed until next year. This cuts well because it means that next year they will have to do these two operations. If they are delayed, we are close to the July 2024 deadline.

Professor Hartmut Winkler, energy analyst and physicist from the University of Johannesburg

To add to Eskom’s woes, there was also a key resignation. Koeberg nuclear director Riedewaan Bakardien has jumped ship to join a Canadian power company, raising concerns about the potential loss of crucial knowledge and skills in the business.

There would be enough people to fill this position on an acting basis. But it’s worrying that a person like that suddenly decides to leave. It’s a pretty critical time and you wouldn’t want major personnel changes. It may be best to keep the current team to ensure competence.

Professor Hartmut Winkler, energy analyst and physicist from the University of Johannesburg

Scroll up for the interview.


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