Breaking News: IAEA ready to offer technical assistance to the Koeberg life extension project after DA intervention

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

Please find attached a soundbite by Kevin Mileham MP.

Following a DA request for technical expertise to assist with salvaging the stalling Koeberg nuclear power plant’s life extension project, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed directly to the DA its willingness to assist with the process under the auspices of the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Safety and Security.

With the DA having secured this commitment from the IAEA, it is now up to the Minister of Energy, Gwede Mantashe; the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) and Eskom to formally submit a request accepting the IAEA’s offer and inviting them to come assist with Koberg’s life extension project. To this end, I have written to the aforementioned parties to appraise them of the IAEA’s offer of assistance and warn them of the dangers that may accrue to Koeberg’s life extension process should they reject this potential technical support.

Having taken note of the grave warnings that were raised by the IAEA in its review mission to Koeberg from 22 March to 31 March 2022, and Koeberg’s own persistent challenges that pose a threat to the renewal of its licence beyond 2024, the DA wrote to the IAEA requesting short term technical assistance to bring the life extension project back on track. The DA’s request was primarily focused on asking the IAEA to provide Koeberg with a contingent of international nuclear power plant experts with expertise in life management of nuclear power plants.

On 8 November 2022, the IAEA Director General, Rafael Mariano Grossi, wrote to me stating that: “I can inform you that the IAEA is ready to carry out this assistance mission to Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant, with the purpose of assisting with the successful implementation of the Life Extension Project”.

Mr Grossi pointed out that this assistance will only be activated after a formal request from host nuclear power plant (Eskom), regulatory authority (NNR) and concerned parties (Minister of Energy). Should these three parties make the request, the IAEA is ready to activate its technical assistance support through the IAEA Department of Nuclear Safety and Security.

The offer of assistance from the IAEA could not have come at an opportune time Koeberg as the operational challenges at the plant continue to increase exponentially. Recently, Unit 2 at Koeberg tripped while under full load due to protection systems sensing that the control rods were lowered to a higher depth. This is in addition to the race against time to install 6 new steam generators at the plant in time before the operating license expires in 2024.

Eskom’s own Grid Code Report, on electricity supply shortfall risks, warned that a delay on the multi-year project to extend Koeberg’s life by a further 20 years “will further exacerbate the power supply constraints, leading to massive amounts of unserved energy”. It cannot be business as usual when Eskom’s own models show that Koeberg’s life extension project is in crisis.

The IAEA has presented South Africa with a unique opportunity to bring in international expertise that will partner with Koeberg engineers to bring the life extension project back on track. Rejecting this offer of assistance will be reckless and detrimental to Koeberg’s continued operation beyond its prescribed lifespan.