The South African National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) has granted Eskom permission to restart Unit 1 of the Koeberg nuclear power station.
Unit 1 has been offline since December 2022 for major maintenance work including the replacement of its massive steam generators. This maintenance project was undertaken by Eskom in preparation for its application to extend Koeberg’s operational life by a further 20 years.
The nuclear power station, which started operating in 1985, should come to the end of its operational life – at least in terms of its operating licence – in July 2024.
Eskom, however, claims that it needs the 1800 MW the plant produces and seeks to extend its operational life.
The permission to restart is subject to Eskom conducting necessary tests before the unit becomes commercially operable.
In a post on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter), energy analyst Chris Yelland said that the fact that the NNR had given Eskom the ‘go ahead’ to “take the reactor critical” shows that significant progress had been made at the Koeberg site.
Apparently, the power utility’s application is for two operating licences – one licence per unit. Should these be issued, Unit 1’s operational life would be extended to July 2044, and Unit 2’s operational life to November 2045.
The NNR has indicated that it will hold further public hearings on the Koeberg life extension in February 2024. This follows an earlier process which closed in March of this year.
The purpose of the public hearings, the NNR says, is to “provide members of the public an opportunity to make oral presentations to the NNR on health, safety and environment issues connected with LTO (Long-Term Operation) application”.
These hearings are to be held in Tableview on 3 February, Atlantis on 10 February, and Athlone on 17 February. Written submissions can be sent to NNR by 15 January 2024.
Thyspunt licence application
In the meantime, the NNR is considering a request from Eskom for a licence to construct and operate a nuclear power station at Thyspunt on the Western Cape coast. Thyspunt is about 10 km west of the town of Cape St Francis.
Eskom has been given until March 2024 to provide the NNR with the necessary documentation related to this project.