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'Koeberg Nuclear Plant is like an old car that simply can't be kept on the road'

7 June 2021 1:29 PM
Tags:
Eskom
Koeberg nuclear power plant

Refilwe Moloto speaks to Hilton Trollip, a research fellow in energy at UCT’s Global Risk Governance Programme.
  • Koeberg GM suspended but energy expert says the nuclear power station is past its sell-by date
  • Researcher Hilton Trollip is skeptical about refurbishing Koeberg
  • All coal-firing and nuclear plants need to end and move over to renewable sources, says Trollip

Koeberg Nuclear Power Station. © petertt/123rf.com

On Friday the general manager of Koeberg Nuclear Power Station was replaced by Eskom's Chief Nuclear Officer. Velaphi Ntuli has been suspended for operational reasons.

RELATED: Eskom suspends Koeberg Power Station GM for 'performance-related issues'

One of those being that one of Eskom’s biggest generating units with a capacity of 900MW, Koeberg Unit 1 has been on an outage since January 2021.

Just how concerned should we be as we head into winter, and at the same time, try to revive our economy?

We don't know what's happening inside Koeberg because we have no information on that, but what we do know is that Eskom is sitting with a power station fleet that is 30, 40, and 50 years old.

Hilton Trollip, Research Fellow - Global Risk Governance Programme UCT

Koeberg was built in 1985 and reaches the end of its design life in 2024, he notes.

It's like a 20 or 30-year-old car. There comes a stage when it simply can't be kept on the road, or to keep it on the road is too expensive or you are going to have regular breakdowns.

Hilton Trollip, Research Fellow - Global Risk Governance Programme UCT

I don't know what the details are with this particular manager but he certainly has an unenviable task along with all of his colleagues in all of these power stations.

Hilton Trollip, Research Fellow - Global Risk Governance Programme UCT

Should the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station be given a longer lease on life?

There are plans to refurbish it, but I am skeptical about the wisdom of that. I am an engineer and everybody knows, things wear out, including power stations.

Hilton Trollip, Research Fellow - Global Risk Governance Programme UCT

These poor people trying to keep these things going. We need new ones. And the new ones won't be nuclear and they won't be coal because there is no money for that. We have tried that.

Hilton Trollip, Research Fellow - Global Risk Governance Programme UCT

Trollip says while the details of Velaphi Ntuli's suspension remain unknown it may be unfair to lay the blame at his door.

While we don't know the details it is quite fair to say it could have happened to anyone. It may turn out that there is some malfeasance...but whoever is taking over now, they are inheriting similar problems.

Hilton Trollip, Research Fellow - Global Risk Governance Programme UCT

He says the government as a whole has not taken on board the fact that this energy era has to come to an end and be replaced with renawables.

In general, all South Africa's ageing power stations, both nuclear and coal, need to be replaced, he says - they are both too expensive

We know this, but they are part of an old coal culture but Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe continues to push coal as a replacement for these but we know very well that the cheapest way to replace them is with wind and photovoltaics but that is going to change the whole energy scene.

Hilton Trollip, Research Fellow - Global Risk Governance Programme UCT

But that battle between replacing the systems with renewable energy or not has been going on for years, he adds, and it is a battle that has not been resolved.

The Department of Energy and Mineral Resources has sat on its hands in terms of getting the replacements for coal-fired power stations approved - even though it is part of the official government plan.

Hilton Trollip, Research Fellow - Global Risk Governance Programme UCT

He says it just goes around and around and nothing gets done.




7 June 2021 1:29 PM
Tags:
Eskom
Koeberg nuclear power plant

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