Eskom taking 980MW Koeberg unit offline

Eskom will take Koeberg’s unit 2 nuclear reactor offline on Monday, 11 December 2023, for the work required to extend its operating licence.

Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said Eskom anticipates that the steam generator replacement work for unit 2 will be completed far faster than it was for unit 1.

“We are taking out 980MW by tomorrow, and of course, unit 1 is almost at full load,” the minister said in a briefing on Sunday.

Koeberg’s’ Unit 1 reactor was the first to have its steam generators replaced, with Eskom taking it offline in December 2022 and planning to return it to service by June 2023.

However, it faced several delays while carrying out the work, and the unit was only returned to service in November 2023.

“Now we are taking out unit 2 for the same purpose. I spoke to the team and said we have learnt from the mistakes and shortcomings relating to unit 1,” said Ramokgopa.

“We asked them to keep to the timelines of returning unit 2.”

When running together, Koeberg’s generating units contribute upwards of 1,800MW to the grid at full load.

However, they haven’t run simultaneously for some time, and it will still be up to two years before both units can supply power to the grid simultaneously.

Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, Minister of Electricity

In early December 2023, the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) — the entity responsible for deciding whether it is safe to extend Koeberg’s operating licence — confirmed that the units would each face a 200-day outage following the completion of unit 2’s steam generator replacement.

The two separate 200-day outages will allow Eskom to test the reactors’ concrete containment structures, which some claim are starting to show cracks.

“For the next foreseeable years, there will be seldom both units operating at the same time,” said Peter Bester, programme manager for nuclear power stations at the NNR.

Eskom must complete the steam generator replacement project for Koeberg unit 2 without delay, as the power utility has until July 2024 to do so.

Chris Yelland, managing director at EE Business Intelligence, said a lot could still go wrong regarding the work, putting the extension of its operating licence at risk.

“The risk is growing that both units could be off simultaneously on the 21st of July,” he said.

Yelland said he wasn’t predicting a shutdown, merely cautioning that more delays would increase the risk of such an occurrence.


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Eskom taking 980MW Koeberg unit offline