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By Moneyweb

Moneyweb: Journalists


Koeberg: Electricity minister ‘worried and extremely upset’

Ramokgopa vows to get to the bottom of continuing multibillion-rand outage slip.


After two reports and a site visit Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa is still not satisfied with the answers he is getting from Eskom about the ever-slipping deadline for the completion of the life extension project of Unit 1 at Koeberg Nuclear Power Station.

Ramokgopa’s concern, which he repeatedly emphasised during his weekly update on the execution of the electricity crisis plan, is that a further outage slip – which he expects – will result in an overlap with the planned outage for a similar 20-year life extension project at Unit 2.

This would deprive the energy-starved national grid of a total of 1 840MW, which equates to almost two stages of load shedding.

This comes days after Eskom announced the departure at the end of July “by mutual agreement” of former chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer, after serving just two months of his two-year fixed-term contract to oversee the life-extension projects at Koeberg and the recovery of several units at Kusile Power Station.

RELATED: Jan Oberholzer resigns from Eskom

The work on both Koeberg units is long overdue.

Delays

Unit 2 was shut down in January 2022 for, among others, the replacement of its three steam generators as part of its life extension work. The project was however abandoned, despite the French contractor Framatome already being on site.

The reason Eskom gave was that a building it was obligated to construct for housing the old steam generators after removal had not been completed and the utility feared a delay in getting it done would take the outage into winter, when higher demand requires every available megawatt.

The unit was only returned to service in August last year, without the replacement being done. The work was then deferred to August 2023, but this date has since been changed to November this year.

ALSO READ: Eskom announces varying stages of load shedding – Here’s your schedule

Unit 1 was taken out of service in December for an outage planned to last for 180 days. It was supposed to be back in service by 8 June, but the outage has been extended repeatedly with the latest target date being 13 September. That was already a 50% extension.

It is not clear what the new expected date of completion is, but Ramokgopa is clearly doubtful about the information he is getting from Eskom about Koeberg.

The work is crucial because the operating licence of the power station lapses in mid-2024.

The National Nuclear Regulator has not answered questions Moneyweb posed about the matter, but indicated that it will give an update on the regulatory process in August.

It is further not clear what the bungling of the life-extension project will be costing Eskom and by extension electricity consumers and taxpayers.

Some reports state that Eskom was slammed with R1 billion in penalties for the postponement of the steam generator replacements on Unit 2 alone, but Eskom has not given any recent cost estimates for the project.

In the dark

Ramokgopa said he was “none the wiser” after a presentation Eskom staff gave him during his visit to Koeberg days ago. He said he is “not convinced” they are ready to return the unit to service when they promised and there is a real danger of overlapping with the outage on Unit 2.

“I remain extremely worried about the situation at Koeberg,” he said.

The situation is “extremely upsetting” due to the rand value and amount of generation capacity at stake and because missing deadlines repeatedly undermines confidence in the safety of the plant, that concerns some people, Ramokgopa said.

“My first impression is that Eskom does not have the internal capacity to manage the programme and the parties involved,” he said.

Ramokgopa said he has a good idea of what the problem is at Koeberg but cannot share his view yet. “I am worried and extremely upset.” He added that Eskom should have managed the project better and its lack of performance undermines confidence in Eskom’s ability to manage complex projects.

The minister said he is referring the matter to the Eskom board.

Asked if a forensic investigation is on the cards, he said that is for the board to decide.

“Where there are signs of failure in delivery of a major project like this, questions must be answered, whether through a forensic investigation or other means. If people have left or are leaving, they must be pursued.”

He vowed to get to the bottom of the problems at Koeberg and report back to the public.

* Ramokgopa confirmed that a fire broke out at Grootvlei Unit 2, which has a generation capacity of 190MW, and was going to visit the power station later Sunday to observe the damage for himself. He said while there is always a fire risk at power stations, everybody should be worried when it does occur, as it had earlier at Medupi Unit 4.

This article originally appeared on Moneyweb and was republished with permission.
Read the original article here.

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