Eskom Unprepared as Generator Leak Accelerates Nuclear Shutdown

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. is unprepared for maintenance work at Africa’s sole nuclear power plant after a steam generator leak brought forward a planned shutdown at one of the 1,800-megawatt facility’s two units.

The South African utility closed Unit 1 after the leak was detected at one of three generators, Eskom said in a statement on Monday. The unit had been scheduled for a maintenance shutdown and refueling, known as Outage 125, on Feb. 8, according to a document sent to staff at the Koeberg plant, near Cape Town, by station manager Velaphi Ntuli.

“I am under no illusion with regard to the status of our Outage 125 preparedness; however, we have no option but to pull together to make this outage a success,” Ntuli said in the document, which he confirmed when contacted by Bloomberg. “This is not the kind of start to the new year that we were hoping for.”

The shutdown, which Eskom said will last until May, will sap its ability to meet national demand. The state-run company that supplies almost all of South Africa’s power has instituted intermittent power outages across major cities since 2008 because it can’t supply the electricity the country needs. Last year was the worst on record for power cuts in the country.

While a replacement of the steam generators is planned, that will take time and efforts will be made to repair the faulty equipment, Ntuli said in an interview.

“We are not yet done with preparation” for the outage, he said. “It will have a bit of an impact.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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