Eskom
Eskom maintenance vehicle. enca
Eskom continues to execute the maintenance drive without having to implement load shedding. Pic credits: enca

In South Africa, Unit 1 of Koeberg Nuclear Power Station was returned back to service on Tuesday morning after a statutory three-month refueling and maintenance programme.

State-owned power utility Eskom said in a statement that Unit 1, which currently has a total output of 900MW, will help to further stabilise the power system in time for the cold peak winter periods.

Maintenance backlog remains a priority

There has not been load shedding since Thursday last week, and Eskom plans to continue reducing the maintenance backlog without having to implement load shedding.

However, the utility has continued to urge all customers to use electricity sparingly at all times to enable the technicians to carry out the requisite maintenance of the country’s power generating units.

Eskom’s Acting Chief Executive Brian Molefe said: “The focus of our maintenance drive is to ensure long-term reliability and sustainability of our power generating plants. Since December last year, the availability of Eskom’s plant performance has improved from 65% to 75%.”

Molefe added: “Going forward, we plan to continue with our maintenance programme in an effort to reduce the backlog that has accumulated over the past few years. Most importantly, we plan to execute the maintenance drive without having to implement load shedding.”

Koeberg’s on-going planned maintenance

Unit 1 has been on a planned maintenance and refueling programme since February this year. This was a big outage for Koeberg and probably the biggest maintenance scope of work ever undertaken at the station, reflecting the typical approach for a plant at this stage of its life.

The scheduled shutdown of Unit 1 was part of Eskom’s overall maintenance programme for its fleet of power stations. Every 16 to 18 months, each of the two units at Koeberg is shut down for refueling, inspection and maintenance.

The routine shutdowns are scheduled to avoid having both units out of service at the same time and to avoid the winter months each year.

Safety at Koeberg

During these routine planned outages, one third of the used nuclear fuel is replaced with new fuel. Statutory inspections and maintenance are performed, and modifications that will ensure that international safety standards continue to be met or that improve the plant performance, are implemented.

Koeberg nuclear power station ranks amongst the safest of the world’s top ranking pressurised water reactors of its vintage, which has been operating since 1985.

New nuclear capacity on its way

In other news, the Department of Energy says it is ready to start with the process of procuring services to the preferred international vendor for South Africa’s new Nuclear Build Programme.

Zimamele Mbambo, the Deputy Director General of Nuclear at the department said government expected to have finalised the procurement process by the end of the year.

“We have concluded the pre-procurement phase by concluding demonstrations by all prospective countries who have expressed interest to participate in our nuclear build programme to ensure that the process is transparent, is open and is fair and allows all the governments to submit their proposals”, he said.