South Africa

Koeberg’s life extension battle

As of 16 March, no more submissions can be made with respect to the decision by Eskom to extend the lifespan of Koeberg, the nuclear power plant, by 20 years. 

Eskom said in a public information document that extending the lifespan of nuclear reactors is a common practice globally. 

133 nuclear reactors worldwide have been in operation for 60 years or longer. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the US has extended the lifespan of 94 nuclear reactor units from 40 to 60 years.

Eskom assured the public that the lifetime extension makes sense economically and presents “no undue risk when approval is obtained through robust regulatory processes”.

At full capacity, Koeberg produces almost enough electricity to reduce two stages of load-shedding. 

Load-shedding is currently the worst it has ever been, with more than 1,700 hours of load-shedding this year so far.

Eskom has been behind schedule with the life-extension project, with MyBroadBand reporting early in 2022 that the safety review has been completed, three months after they planned to start the project.

In November last year, the Democratic Alliance (DA) confirmed that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is prepared to offer technical assistance.

That assistance will only be activated by a formal request from Eskom, according to the DA.

Koeberg nuclear power station

Nuclear battle

There has been push-back in response to the proposed life extension by advocacy groups concerned about safety and the processes followed by Eskom.

The executive director of the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute, Francesca de Gasparis, said the lack of information and inadequate infrastructure are behind their opposition to the extension.

“Concerns range from the issue of a potential grid collapse (due to load-shedding) to concerns about the containment buildings that protect us from radioactive leaks.”

Speaking on eNCA, she said there are many holes in the information provided on the lifespan extension and a lack of willingness to engage the public.

She highlighted that the application is for a 20-year extension to the lifespan of Koeberg when the French, who helped build Koeberg, have never extended their reactors by more than 10 years at a time.

“There is far too little information for us to make an informed assessment,” she said. 

She said Eskom released a safety case, but large sections of it were redacted, meaning it was not clear what information was revealed in the report.

Last year, Eskom released a public information document for the long-term operation of Koeberg.


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