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Koeberg nuclear power plant steam-generator replacement project, South Africa – update

Image of the Koeberg nuclear power plant

8th December 2023

By: Sheila Barradas

Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Name of the Project
Koeberg nuclear power plant steam-generator replacement (SGR) project.

Location
Western Cape, South Africa.

Project Owner/s
Eskom.

Project Description
The current steam generators in Unit 1 and Unit 2 at the Koeberg nuclear power station have been in operation since 1984 and 1985 respectively. The aim of the project is to extend the design life of the nuclear power station by 20 years to 2045.

The project involves the replacement of all six steam generators for units 1 and 2.

The SGR project involves the design, manufacture and installation of three steam generators in each of the Koeberg power plant's two operating units, as well as safety analyses and studies to comprehensively demonstrate the plant's design integrity, with no adverse impact on public and worker safety and health or the environment, including the enhancement of nuclear safety.

The new generators will incorporate modern design features for easy maintenance and inspections and improve heat-transfer efficiency, leading to an overall efficiency improvement of Koeberg.

The installation of the generators will be conducted during the scheduled refuelling, inspections and maintenance outages of the two units at Koeberg power station. Eskom is on track and progressing according to plan for installation during the next unit 1 and 2 outages.

The other major components of the life-extension plan include:

  • a refuelling water storage tank replacement project, completed in 2019.
  • the Unit 2 reactor pressure vessel head replacement, with the installation thereof scheduled for 2022.
  • the replacement of feed-train components on the conventional power plant, which is conducted during maintenance outages.
  • the ongoing Koeberg safety aspects of long-term operation assessment. The assessment is designed to provide the equipment-ageing management confirmation to enable the Koeberg plant to operate beyond its original life span of 40 years to at least 60 years.

Capital Expenditure
Not stated.

Planned Start/End Date
Not stated.

Latest Developments
The National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) is set to make a decision in January regarding Eskom's request for the separation of licences for Koeberg Unit 1 and Unit 2. This division aims to accommodate a later operational timeline for Unit 2, allowing for its operation beyond July 2024.

Should the NNR board decline Eskom's request for this separation, both Koeberg units will go offline simultaneously on July 21, 2024. This follows Eskom's announcement of a 200-day outage for Unit 1 starting on that date, involving the necessary maintenance that includes an integrated leak test for the containment building.

Unit 2 is also slated for a lengthy mandatory outage, required every decade, once its steam generators are replaced – a task set for completion in 2026.

Currently, the operational licence for both units extends until only July 21, 2024, aligned with the 40-year operational span of Unit 1, which began functioning commercially on July 21, 1984.

Eskom has requested a separation to reflect an operation limit for Unit 2 in line with its November 9, 1985, commercial operation date.

NNR divisional executive for nuclear power plants Orion Phillips has said a review of Eskom’s request for a separation of the licences has been completed.

The recommendation arising from the review will be presented to a board technical committee on December 11 and the NNR board will consider the outcome of those deliberations at its meeting in late January 2024, after which an announcement will be made.

To accede to the separation request, the NNR must confirm whether systems that are common to both units, including seismic bearings and cables in the containment area, are safe to continue operating.

The NNR is, in parallel, progressing with its assessment of Eskom’s LTO Safety Case, submitted in June 2022.

Throughout 2023, only one Koeberg unit has been operational at any time, exacerbating the already dire power disruptions in the country this year.

Unit 1 went offline on December 10, 2022, initially planned for a 180-day extended outage to replace its three steam generators. However, it only reconnected to the grid on November 18 after a two-week ramp-up, further delaying the Unit 2 steam-generator replacement, originally slated for September.

Replacing the six steam generators is pivotal in obtaining an LTO authorisation from the NNR, allowing for each unit to operate an additional 20 years.

Public hearings are scheduled for February, following an initial comment period where the NNR received 37 representations, encompassing 209 comments. Concerns raised include issues highlighted in the International Energy Agency's redacted ‘Safety Aspects of Long-term Operation’ report regarding Koeberg's safety aspects, the adequacy of the public consultation process, radioactive waste, emergency planning, Koeberg's role in loadshedding, and infrastructure status.

Queries persist regarding the life extension's cost, initially stated by Eskom as R20 billion, but this figure could potentially be surpassed, owing to numerous claims from the main contractor Framatome.

Public hearings are planned for February 3, 10, and 17, 2024, in Tableview, Atlantis, and Athlone. For more details regarding participation: [https://nnr.co.za/public-information/public-hearing/](https://nnr.co.za/public-information/public-hearing/).

Key Contracts, Suppliers, and Consultants
Framatome (main SGR contractor); General Electric (modifications to the balance of plant or secondary turbine system); and Jacobs Engineering (balance of plant hardware changes).

Contact Details for Project Information
Eskom media desk, email mediadesk@eskom.co.za.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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