Koeberg conundrum

Energy expert Clyde Mallinson said Koeberg Nuclear Power Station should never have been refurbished, and South Africa is experiencing an extra stage of load-shedding because the station has not been operating at full capacity.

The refurbishment of the only nuclear power station in Africa began 18 months ago, with the replacement of its two steam generators expected to take six months each. 

Unit 1 is still offline, and its steam generator is yet to be replaced, while Unit 2 is expected to go offline in September. 

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa recently said he is concerned that the refurbishment is behind schedule. 

He also warned that there might be an overlap where both of Koeberg’s units are off simultaneously. 

Mallinson has previously estimated that the closure of Koeberg’s Unit 1 since January 2022 has already cost the South African economy R120 billion on top of the power plant’s refurbishing costs. 

Using an estimated cost of unserved electricity of R10/KWh, Mallinson said that Unit 1 of Koeberg being inoperational for 18 months has cost the South African economy R120 billion

In addition, Mallinson told Newzroom Afrika that the current electricity crisis Eskom is facing is partially because Koeberg is shut down for refurbishment.

He said that, in the past 18 months, South Africa has had an extra stage of load-shedding every day because Koeberg has not been available.

Koeberg is meant to be shut down in 2024. However, Eskom is now attempting to repair and replace certain items that could allow the utility to extend the power station’s life.

However, Mallinson said there is no guarantee that Koeberg’s life can be extended.

“It’s impossible to retrofit an old nuclear plant to current safety standards. We can maintain it at the safety standards it had, but we can’t lift it to the new safety standards that have been put in place post-Fukushima, post-Chernobyl, and post-Three Mile Island,” he said.

Instead, Mallinson believes Koeberg should have been allowed to “play out until the end of its life”, as the country desperately needs its reliable electricity supply. 


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