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

Image of Koeberg nuclear power station

7th June 2024

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.
  • 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) started with another round of hearings for the Koeberg long-term operation (LTO), or lifetime extension, project on June 3, owing to concerns about the last consultation process having been insufficient.

The regulator conceded that the public required more information, but only after civil society organisations such as the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (Safcei) voiced its dissatisfaction with the overall governance and public participation process for the LTO.

Other organisations that also raised concerns include Project 90 by 2030, Save Bantamsklip, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and Koeberg Alert Alliance (KAA).

Safcei executive director Francesca de Gasparis lists one of the main issues as being that the NNR held public hearings before the actual release of essential documentation, including a latest seismic risk study.

She says issues of safety are integral to determining the safety of the LTO, especially as the last scientific study to assess seismic risk was done in 1976.

The organisations and members of the public have also raised concerns about several safety recommendations made by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that have not been implemented at Koeberg or, if implemented, have not been shared with the public.

These recommendations include a complete revalidation of the qualification of cables in the containment building, the full functionality of the containment structure’s monitoring system, the revalidation of time-limited ageing analyses and aging management of the structures, systems and components.

“Failure to provide confirmation that these issues have been duly addressed has left no room for meaningful engagement. The containment structures storing high-level waste are still cracked, one of which was a 110 m crack back in 2022 and aging management plans have not been shared with the public,” Safcei has said.

Additionally, Safcei has said, an emergency compliance drill conducted at Koeberg in November 2022 revealed 22 noncompliance issues, including that the Mass Care Centre at the plant is not suitable to accept and respond to accident victims that have been exposed to radioactive areas.

KAA says Eskom has not been forthcoming about how it has addressed the critical safety issues highlighted by the IAEA regarding the LTO.

“At first, Eskom did not want to make a safety case report available, then they released a heavily redacted version. After much pressure, the safety case is now available, but the 289 supporting documents are unavailable to the public. Why the secrecy?” KAA member Lydia Petersen asks.

Earthlife Africa representative Makoma Lekalakala says extending Koeberg’s life span also means more toxic waste, hence the need for expanded disposal facilities on site and at Vaalputs in the Northern Cape, which stores low-level waste materials.

She adds that no feasibility studies provided to the public have shown that such expansions are doable, especially considering the proximity to local communities.

“The conditions of the infrastructure to extend the life of the plant, in addition to the environmental and climate impacts, all affect the people and the planet,” Lekalakala notes.

Project 90 by 2030 member Gabriel Klaasen agrees, saying Koeberg is already storing 40 years’ worth of high-level radioactive nuclear waste, for which there is no permanent solution.

Once a week a truck containing low-level nuclear waste travels along the R355 alongside other motorists, with four accidents having occurred with these types of trucks over the years.

“If we do not have a solution for the existing waste, why would we extend Koeberg and add an additional 20 years of waste to the mess?”

De Gasparis has concluded that not only is it unclear whether the plant is safe, but people must accept that this plant will operate for another 20 years, when there is much risk involved. If Eskom has addressed issues sufficiently, she implores the utility to provide proof.

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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