Nuclear station maintenance delayed to spare us from Stage 8

  • Eskom’s planned maintenance on the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station has been postponed.
  • The utility says that this is to ensure the stability of the grid and not increase the level of loadshedding.
  • South Africa is expected to decrease loadshedding from 10th December, but this is when the planned maintenance will commence again for the Koeberg station.

On Wednesday, Eskom abruptly plunged the country into Stage 6 loadshedding citing multiple breakdowns across its fleet of generation units and plans to conserve what little diesel reserves it has left.

Then it emerged that Eskom was planning to disconnect Unit 1 of its Koeberg Nuclear Power Station from the grid to begin scheduled maintenance that would last six months.

Eskom is planning to replace the steam generators at this unit, which will extend the life of the plant by another 20 years.

This outage of the Koeberg Unit 1, which contributes nearly 1 000MW to the country’s grid would add one whole stage of loadshedding to our lives.

“The [Unit 1] outage will be for a duration of approximately six months. The extended unavailability of the unit is due to the planned long outages which does mean the electricity supply system may be under additional strain during the outage,” said Eskom’s Acting Chief Nuclear Officer, Sadika Touffie.

As panic erupted on social media about the prospect of having to deal with Stage 7 or even Stage 8 loadshedding, Eskom decided on Thursday to postpone the maintenance at the nuclear power station, reports SA News.

The utility says the delay is to ensure the grid’s stability does not deteriorate further. This will have the added benefit of not increasing the country’s loadshedding level.

“While Eskom is ready to commence with the outage, with the contractors and all the requisite resources on standby, grid stability is an important consideration prior to shutting down the Unit 1 reactor to commence the maintenance and refuelling outage,” the chief nuclear office added.

“This is going to be a long but necessary outage – the first of its kind for Koeberg. Eskom has taken care to ensure no undue delays are experienced once the project gets underway.”

Touffie says that Koeberg is particularly important for Eskom, apart from having the largest generating units on the African continent at 920MW each.

The station provides reliable operation, and it has low primary costs because since it is a nuclear station, it generates its own electricity without the need for fossil fuels. The station’s location in the Western Cape is also a strategic advantage for the utility in terms of the stability of the national electricity grid.

Eskom now expects the maintenance to commence on 10th December 2022, should conditions on the grid recover to ensure the stability of the system.

The utility is planning to downgrade to Stage 5 loadshedding from 10th December, whether this means that the Koeberg outage is being factored in will wait to be seen.

But with Eskom’s grid as unstable as it is, the higher stages of loadshedding like Stage 7 and Stage 8 are still on the cards if the utility continues to experience breakdowns across its grid.


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