IAEA report confirms that the Koeberg life extension project is in crisis

Issued by Kevin Mileham MP – DA Shadow Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy
18 Oct 2022 in News

Despite assurances from Eskom and Ministers in the energy cluster that Koeberg’s life extension project was on track, the DA can reveal today that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) does not agree with the government’s stance. In fact, the report by the IAEA’s review mission to Koeberg reveals a life extension project that is in crisis.

Based on the findings of the IAEA, the DA recommends that the South African government supports our call for IAEA expertise to bring the Koeberg life extension project back on track. On 14 September 2022, the DA submitted a Request for Short Term Technical Assistance to the IAEA’s Technical Working Group on Life Management of Nuclear Power Plants (TWG-LMNPP). The purpose of the request was to ask the IAEA to provide a contingent of nuclear power plant experts to assist with Koeberg’s life extension project.

Following a successful PAIA application submitted to Minister Gwede Mantashe to obtain access to the IAEA’s Koeberg mission report, the DA confirm that unless action is taken, Koeberg now faces the real risk of failing to have its license renewed in July 2024 due to a life extension project in distress.

According to the IAEA mission report, the Koeberg life extension project faces significant challenges, some of which include:

  • Management of the Long Term Operation (LTO) programme is not effective to timely complete all actions to prepare for LTO;
  • The safety analysis report (SAR) has not been adequately updated for LTO and ageing management;
  • Completeness and consistency of scope setting of structures, systems and components (SSCs) for ageing management and LTO are not ensured;
  • The plant programmes are not comprehensively reviewed and implemented for LTO;
  • Information used for ageing management review (AMR) of mechanical SSCs is not consistently managed and documented;
  • Ageing management programmes (AMPs) for mechanical SSCs are not complete;
  • The plant has not completely implemented a comprehensive cable ageing management programme;
  • The plant has not revalidated environmental qualification for some SSCs for LTO;
  • Electromagnetic compatibility has not been completely assessed;
  • The plant has not revalidated the environmental qualification of qualified cables for LTO;
  • A proactive approach to technological obsolescence management is not fully implemented;
  • The plant has not comprehensively revalidated the time limited ageing analyses (TLAAs) for concrete structures;
  • Containment structure monitoring system is not fully functional;
  • Ageing management programmes for civil structures are not fully developed and implemented.

The findings made by the IAEA are consistent with the operational challenges that have affected the Koeberg nuclear power plant since the conclusion of the IAEA mission. Recently, Unit 2 at Koeberg tripped while under full load due to protection systems sensing that the control rods were lowered too much. This is in addition to the race against time to install 6 new steam generators at the plant.

Should the South African government heed the DA’s call for IAEA expertise, the contingent of IAEA expert’s terms of reference will be to work alongside Koeberg engineers on bringing the life extension project back on track and ensuring its successful implementation. In our submissions, we indicated that assignment period for the IAEA experts will only end when the IAEA has certified and approved the efficacy of Koeberg’s life extension project.