NNR considering comments on Koeberg licence extension

20th March 2023 By: Marleny Arnoldi - Deputy Editor Online

NNR considering comments on Koeberg licence extension

The Koeberg power station in the Western Cape

The sixty-day period for public comment on Koeberg nuclear power station operating beyond its licensed timeframe in 2024 lapsed on March 16.

The National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) will now consider the written representations received from January 8 and announce in due course whether further public debate on the extension of the licence is necessary, keeping mind of health, safety and environmental issues.

The key issues raised by stakeholders include that the continued operation of the Koeberg plant, in the Western Cape, will require extensive and costly refurbishments and upgrades, which the country can ill afford.

Koeberg, which is Africa’s only operational nuclear power station, consists of two 900 MW generation units and was built in the 1980s. At the time, the plant was granted a 40-year operational licence which expires in July 2024.

Eskom has applied to the NNR to extend the plant’s operational life by 20 years to 2045; however, this licence extension would require the plant to undergo significant upgrades, to the tune of R20-billion to meet specific safety criteria.

Some of the arguments in favour of the licence extension say South Africa already has a fragile power supply and cannot afford losing more capacity.

Others, such as Koeberg Alert Alliance doubt whether Eskom can successfully and safely extend the lifetime of the nuclear power station.

The Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute agrees, saying in a release on March 17 that the lack of information for the safety case of the Koeberg lifespan extension is a major obstacle to proper public involvement.

The institute says there are also several issues affecting the feasibility of a life extension of the ageing nuclear power plant, including issues with the containment buildings that protect people from radioactivity.

Faith leader Lydia Peterson comments that should the Koeberg lifespan be extended, the country will be saddled with nuclear waste for which there is no permanent solution. This while communities have not been adequately informed about associated risks with the lifespan extension.