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By Gareth Cotterell

Digital Editor

‘Pointless expense’: Energy activist slams R1bn wasted at Koeberg power plant

Peter Bekker said the maintenance is too costly considering the Koeberg plant might shut down in 2024

Energy activist Peter Bekker has slammed the expensive and extended maintenance that is taking place at the Koeberg power plant.

Speaking to CapeTalk, Bekker was critical of the work being done at Koeberg because it is adding to South Africa’s load shedding woes. It is also too costly considering the Koeberg plant might shut down in two years.

Koeberg’s Unit 2 was taken offline in January for maintenance to replace three steam generators in the containment building. Bekker, however, claims that maintenance didn’t take place.

“For the last seven months we’ve had one extra stage of load shedding due to some form of incompetence at the Koeberg plant,” said Peter Bekker, an activist at the Koeberg Alert Alliance.

Koeberg Unit 2 offline

Bekker added that the unit needed to go offline for refueling, but that should only have taken five weeks.

“When a French team Framatome arrived to do the work, they found that the preparations had not been completed. A building which had to house the old radioactive steam generators had not been completed,” said Bekker.

Bekker claims that despite this the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) approved for the work to go ahead. Eskom then called Framatome to come to South Africa.

“But when they arrived, they refused because it was not safe to proceed. According to NUM, they left an invoice with Eskom of R1 billion for wasting their time.”

ALSO READ: Should we be worried about Eskom’s management of Koeberg?

Bekker is a former board member at the NNR. He was suspended in January.

“They didn’t like the fact I asked questions. What could R1 billion have done? It was an absolutely pointless expense that achieved nothing. It’s a penalty that had no benefit to the country. And when Eskom wastes money, you know who pays for that,” he said.

Load shedding

With South Africa bearing the brunt of load shedding at the moment, Bekker said taking the units at Koeberg offline “is a terrible thing to do at the moment”.

He said South Africa is experiencing an extra stage of load shedding while the unit is offline.

ALSO READ: Eskom delays replacement of Koeberg steam generators to avoid load shedding risk

Bekker also questioned why the refurbishment was taking place when the plant is meant to shut down in 2024.

“Eskom is spending this money before it actually has approval from the NNR to extend its life. It’s possible the NNR says no and all this money is wasted,” he said.

Renewable energy

Bekker’s Koeberg Alert Alliance is one of the many civil society organisations that earlier this week gave energy minister Gwede Mantashe an ultimatum to introduce renewable energy to South Africa’s grid.

They said this will lessen the severity of load shedding.

The organisations are calling for wind and solar energy systems to be built and connected to the country’s electricity grid.

“The most urgent thing is to get wind and photovoltaic (PV) energy onto the system as fast as possible,” said Hilton Trollip, a research fellow at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Global Risk Governance Programme.

The organisations criticised Mantashe for not unlocking the country’s renewable energy, as stated in government’s integrated resource plan (IRP) in 2019.

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