Koeberg Maintenance Delays Plague Eskom, R950M Fine Looms Over Winter Woes

Jan Oberholzer's Impact on Eskom
  1. Eskom, South Africa’s power utility, faces a R950 million penalty due to delays in planned maintenance at the Koeberg nuclear power station, with French firm Framatome being awarded the amount.
  2. The maintenance delay raises concerns for the upcoming winter season in South Africa, as Koeberg’s unit 1, which generates 920MW of electricity, will not be available when demand increases.
  3. The delayed maintenance has a knock-on effect, leaving limited time to complete a similar steam generator replacement in unit 2 before Koeberg’s license expires in mid-2024, potentially causing severe power shortages.

South Africa’s embattled power utility, Eskom, has been slapped with a hefty R950 million penalty due to delays in planned maintenance at the Koeberg nuclear power station. TimesLive reported that two independent sources at Eskom confirmed an adjudication ruling from last week, which awarded French firm Framatome R950 million as a result of Eskom postponing planned work during a maintenance outage that commenced last year.

Framatome has a contract to replace six steam generators at the Koeberg nuclear power station. The company was also awarded a separate R650 million from Eskom last year, following the Constitutional Court’s upholding of a cost order from the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Former board member of the National Nuclear Regulator, Peter Becker, revealed that there are currently over 100 active contractual disputes between Eskom and Framatome, with one single dispute worth approximately R1 billion. Becker also pointed out that the cost of refurbishment at Koeberg is significantly higher than what Eskom has publicly disclosed.

Eskom has estimated the refurbishment cost to be around R20 billion. However, Clyde Mallinson, director of Virtual Energy and Power, argued that this estimate was made in 2020, and the revised cost is likely to fall between R40 and R70 billion.

Koeberg is one of South Africa’s most reliable power stations, but the delay in completing maintenance at the country’s only nuclear power station raises concerns for the upcoming winter season. Koeberg’s unit 1 generates 920MW of electricity and reduces load shedding by roughly one stage. However, the delay in replacing a steam generator is contributing to daily power cuts.

Moneyweb reported that the return to service of unit 1 at the nuclear power station has been pushed back to 13 September, approximately three months later than initially planned. Consequently, the 920MW of electricity will not be available during the winter season when demand is expected to increase.

The maintenance delay also creates a domino effect, leaving a narrow window to complete a similar steam generator replacement in unit 2 before Koeberg’s license expires in mid-2024. Alan Winde, premier of the Western Cape province, expressed his concern over the delays at Koeberg, emphasizing the need for timely, on-budget project completion.

Earlier this month, Mallinson warned that South Africans would face a cold, dark winter if Eskom failed to increase its coal power fleet’s capacity factor (CF) to 50%—a necessary step to combat higher stages of load shedding during winter. South Africa is predicted to experience stage 6 load shedding in June if Eskom cannot improve its coal power fleet’s CF.

Mallison disclosed that in February, Eskom’s coal fleet operated at a mere 40% CF. If this performance persists into June, Eskom would have to implement stage 11 load shedding—a level that currently does not exist. As a result, South Africans may face even more severe power shortages during the winter months due to Eskom’s ongoing maintenance delays at Koeberg nuclear power station.

Context

Eskom, South Africa’s state-owned power utility, has a history of struggling with load shedding, power outages, and financial challenges. The company is responsible for generating, transmitting, and distributing electricity to the majority of the country. Koeberg nuclear power station is one of South Africa’s most reliable power stations and the only nuclear power station in the country.

However, Eskom has faced delays in planned maintenance at the Koeberg nuclear power station, which has led to a R950 million penalty and has raised concerns about the availability of electricity during the upcoming winter season. These delays not only impact the immediate power supply situation but also have long-term consequences, as there is limited time left to complete necessary maintenance on another unit at the Koeberg plant before its license expires in mid-2024.

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