Mr Keith Featherstone, acting Chief Nuclear Officer at the Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP), was Premier Alan Winde’s guest this week at his 20th Energy Digicon.
The power station’s contribution to the Western Cape and South Africa’s energy needs was the primary focus of this week’s digicon. “The importance of Koeberg to the Western Cape has significantly increased. Without Koeberg it is not possible for transmission lines to actually supply the Western Cape’s load on their own. Our aim is always to ensure higher reliability of the plant – which we are able to achieve – as well as to minimise the chance of both units being shut down at the same time,” stressed Mr Featherstone.
From the outset, he addressed the delays experienced in the refurbishment process, currently under way at the plant. Describing it as a “major service”, he explained that Eskom has submitted its application to the National Nuclear Regulator, along with what is called a “safety case”, requesting permission for the facility to be allowed to operate for another 20 years. As part of the submission, management at the power station identified 3 pieces of equipment that need to be replaced:
- Reactor head at unit 2 which has already been replaced
- Refueling water storage tanks at both units which have also been replaced, and
- Steam generators
Mr Featherstone said, “I am pleased to say that at long last the three steam generators at unit 1 have been replaced. All the mechanical work is completed. Once the unit is synchronised to the grid there is still a lot of testing we need to do. Only when all those tests are completed will we consider the unit to be commercially available.” The unit will be back in operation by 3 November 2023.
Mr Featherstone added, “The unit 2 outage has now been scheduled for 7 November 2023. We have estimated that we will need longer than what we originally planned based on the experience from unit 1, and we will be taking all the lessons we have learned from this outage into the unit 2 outage to make sure that we can do it as speedily as possible. There have not been significant periods where there has been a risk to the Western Cape for both units being down. We are actively working day and night to bring this unit back as soon as possible. Unfortunately, it has taken a lot longer than what we were originally anticipating.”
On whether it is viable to expand nuclear power in South Africa to help meet the growing demand for energy, Mr Featherstone detailed how that with the international drive to reduce carbon emissions nuclear energy is finding a resurgence globally, particularly for baseload supply. “We do have the experience; we know how to manage nuclear power stations. Within Eskom, we have a lot of experience in doing that. The technology is viable. With the number of projects starting all over the world there must be a case to show that it can be done viably. I believe it is possible. I believe we do need it because we have to transition away from coal.” He also offered the assurance that there is no risk of nuclear fallout at KNPP.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Western Cape Government: Department of the Premier.