Koeberg undergoes revamp to extend lifespan

Power lines feed electricity to the national grid from Koeberg Nuclear Power Station. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
Power lines feed electricity to the national grid from Koeberg Nuclear Power Station. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

Eskom is overhauling Koeberg nuclear plant with the aim of extending its lifespan by at least 20 years.

The revamp of the 1 860-megawatt facility comes as Eskom struggles to produce enough electricity to meet demand and is grappling to address construction glitches and cost overruns at two new coal-fired power stations. The nuclear plant is one of the cheapest to operate in the utility’s fleet.

Koeberg “has been well-maintained over its 35-year history and hence only a relatively small number of large components require replacement,” Eskom said in an emailed reply to questions. “These replacements have been timed to so they coincide with routine unit shutdowns for refueling and maintenance.”

Located on the Atlantic coast about 27 kilometers north of Cape Town, Koeberg’s first unit was completed in 1984 and the second a year later. The plant would have been decommissioned in 2024, assuming it operated for 40 years.

Eskom said it began planning the overhaul in 2010, has committed the necessary funds and is implementing it in several stages. Water storage tanks used for refueling one of Koeberg’s units have already been installed, a new reactor vessel cover is being manufactured and the plant’s steam generators are scheduled to be replaced in 2021, it said. The utility didn’t specify how much is it spending.

The Koeberg plant has performed “exceptionally well,” delivering consistent power supply to the grid, and the cost of keeping it going is insignificant, Eskom Chief Executive Officer Phakamani Hadebe said in an interview on Tuesday.

Nuclear plants in other countries with similar designs to Koeberg, which operates pressurised water reactors, have secured approval to operate for 60 years and some are considering applying for a further 20-year extension, according to Eskom.

Former South African President Jacob Zuma favored adding 9 600 megawatts of atomic power to the national grid. Those plans were scrapped early last year shortly after Zuma relinquished control of the ANC to Cyril Ramaphosa, who said the country couldn’t afford the plants.

Considering the problems South Africa would have faced building more new coal-fired power stations or additional nuclear facilities, extending Koeberg’s lifespan makes sense from a cost and timing perspective, said Chris Gadomski, a nuclear industry analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“Everything in the reactor with the exception of the reactor pressure vessel would be replaced as the lifetime is extended beyond 40 years,” he said.

ZAR/USD
16.84
(-0.27)
ZAR/GBP
21.15
(+0.32)
ZAR/EUR
19.11
(-0.58)
ZAR/AUD
11.69
(-0.14)
ZAR/JPY
0.16
(+0.06)
Gold
1802.44
(+0.14)
Silver
19.07
(+1.63)
Platinum
826.18
(+0.59)
Brent Crude
43.02
(0.00)
Palladium
1965.00
(+0.71)
All Share
56199.46
(+1.41)
Top 40
51874.81
(+1.41)
Financial 15
10703.82
(+2.21)
Industrial 25
76910.63
(+1.02)
Resource 10
53327.86
(+1.61)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo
Company Snapshot
Voting Booth
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
I'm not really directly affected
18% - 2004 votes
I am taking a hit, but should be able to recover in the next year
23% - 2621 votes
My finances have been devastated
35% - 3927 votes
It's still too early to know what the full effect will be
25% - 2809 votes
Vote