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Koeberg Nuclear Power Station. Image: Eskom.

US company Jacobs has been selected to carry out essential engineering modifications to extend the operating life of South Africa’s Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant.

The proposed modifications are part of a $1.2billion (R20bn) extension project that will take two years to complete. Work to replace the steam generators for the first of Koeberg’s two units is scheduled to start during a planned outage in January 2022.

Koeberg, Africa’s only nuclear power station, has an installed capacity of 1,940MW and generates around 5% of South Africa’s electricity. The work Jacobs will do is in preparation for the installation of six replacement steam generators, each weighing about 380 tons and about 20 metres long, at the two-reaction plan operated by Eskom.

Karen Wiemelt, Jacobs’ energy security and technology senior vice president, said they will be responsible for construction management related to modifications to Koeberg’s secondary turbine system.

The scope of work includes prefabrication of piping, pipe supports and modification, and piping replacement; installation of on-site scaffolding, rigging and lagging; vessel modifications and strengthening; and replacement of forced air cooler units.

“To date, this is the largest single contract for our nuclear team in South Africa, which has successfully completed numerous engineering, procurement and construction projects to support operations at Koeberg over the past 30 years,” explained Wiemelt.

Expanding South Africa’s nuclear power capacity

The current steam generators have been in service since the plant was connected to the national grid in 1984. Their replacement is an essential part of the plan mentioned in the Integrated Resources Plan 2019 (IRP2019) to extend the operational life of Koeberg by approximately 20 years, from 40 to 60 years.

The Department of Mineral Resources in mid-2020 issued a Request for Information (RFI) to assess nuclear technologies that could be considered for a national programme to build 2,500MW of new nuclear capacity. While the IRP2019 did not make mention of a new nuclear build, the RFI reflects post 2030 capacity, considering the long lead time for creating such a project.

The public hearings into the suitability of Thyspunt in Cape Saint Francis as possible site of South Africa’s second nuclear installation take place 25 and 26 August 2021. Eskom applied for two Nuclear Installation Site Licences for Thyspunt and Dyynefontyn, just north of the existing Koeberg power plant.

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