Eskom is at war with French contractor Framatome following several serious and costly blunders which delayed the critical Koeberg Nuclear Power Station life extension project.
Koeberg has two generating units capable of producing 920 MW each, roughly equivalent to one stage of load-shedding per generating unit.
The nuclear power station’s operating licence expires in July 2024, after which it must close unless the plant has been refurbished and relicensed.
The steam generator replacement on Unit 1 was initially supposed to occur between February and June 2021. The replacement of Unit 2 was set to occur between January and May 2022.
However, both projects were delayed to 2023. Koeberg’s Unit 1 has been down since December 2022 for maintenance, refuelling, and refurbishment.
The first unit is still months away from coming back online, and Koeberg’s Unit 2 is expected to go offline in September.
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa is concerned that the refurbishment is behind schedule and that there might be an overlap where both Koeberg’s units are down simultaneously.
Last week, Eskom’s chief nuclear officer Keith Featherstone assured the media there would be no overlap between the outages of Koeberg’s two units.
Featherstone said Koeberg Unit 1, set to return to service after six months, will only be operational by 3 November.
The refurbishment of Koeberg Unit 2 has been pushed back to 7 November 2023 to avoid both units being offline simultaneously.
Featherstone blamed an unrealistic original time frame for the delays in bringing Koeberg Unit 1 back online.
He said they were overly optimistic about what they could achieve and should have given themselves much more time for this project.
Eskom at war with its French partner Framatome
City Press reported that Eskom is engaged in “a war” with French contractor Framatome for poor work and costly blunders which caused the delays.
The newspaper reported that casting Koeberg’s six generators in France was a disaster. Eskom reportedly had to fly the generators to China, where a “partner” would fix them.
Rapport reported that due to their 320-tonne weight, they had to be carried on six expensive flights using Russian Antonov cargo planes.
However, after they arrived in China, it quickly became clear that the generators were unusable. Production had to start from the beginning.
As a result of significant delays, Framatome incurred the maximum project fines and is now losing money on the project.
However, Eskom is not without blame. For example, Eskom did not complete a storage facility for the old generators before the project started.
The project also faced numerous other problems, including issues with a polar crane, mechanical problems with a control rod, and regular unit trips.
Featherstone blamed the project delay on “unanticipated” obstacles and issues with integrating a local workforce for the project.
It is impossible to replace contractors at this stage, even though the relationship between Eskom and Framatome has soured.
Citing several sources, City Press reported that “the situation has become a game of claims and counterclaims between Eskom and Framatome”.