Technician’s fundamental error could have shut down Koeberg’s only operating unit

Alarmingly, Eskom failed to inform the public of the incident – Bruce Whitfield interviews energy analyst Chris Yelland.

Eskom’s Koeberg Power Station. Photo: Eskom

It turned out that the only remaining operating unit at the Koeberg nuclear power plant almost had to be shut down during the last phase of load shedding.

A person who appears to be a technician accidentally cut a valve on unit 1, instead of the same valve on unit 2.

Unit 2 is the reactor already shut down for scheduled maintenance.

The incident was analyzed in a report published in Koeberg’s internal newsletter “Shutdown Times”.

Earlier this month, Eskom announced it was delaying some life-extending maintenance at Koeberg.

RELATED: “Eskom doubles Koeberg shutdown period – posing risk of massive load shedding”

What he didn’t explain was the cause of the repeated delays, writes Sasha Planting in Daily Maverick.

“These included a contractor walking off site and French partner Framatome, which is building the six steam generators that will replace the old ones, complaining about safety issues at the site.”

Bruce Whitfield receives feedback from energy analyst Chris Yelland, MD of EE Business Intelligence

We only know what we can read in a somewhat obscure publication called Shutdown Times. Funnily enough, I did some digging… and found out that this is actually an official Eskom publication which is released daily during the shutdown of the Koeberg nuclear reactors.

Chris Yelland, Energy Analyst and MD – EE Business Intelligence

I don’t know what it means to cut a valve… but instead of cutting the valve of the group which was stopped, they cut the valve of the group which was still working!… And that apparently almost precipitated a shutdown of the Koeberg business unit… and is described in this newsletter as a very serious incident.

Chris Yelland, Energy Analyst and MD – EE Business Intelligence

The “Shutdown Times” reports that the error was eventually identified and classified as “significant”.

“…because it had the potential, among other risks, to drain the accumulator of the 1 RIS 002 BA safety injection system reservoir… This could have had devastating consequences.”

Koeberg ordered a work stoppage to contain the situation.

He almost closed the whole factory because half of the factory is stopped… The other half could have been stopped following this incident which could have removed 1,800 MW in total from the network at a time when we had load shedding.

Chris Yelland, Energy Analyst and MD – EE Business Intelligence

To add to that, it was the second such incident during this particular power outage, according to the news report.

What also worries Yelland is that this information is going through the media, instead of Eskom keeping the public informed.

Listen to the energy expert’s response in the audio clip below:

This article first appeared on CapeTalk: Technician’s fundamental error could have shut down Koeberg’s only operating unit

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