Clock is ticking for Koeberg nuclear fuel

Eskom’s Koeberg nuclear energy station exterior Cape City. (Jay Caboz)

Authorities has till subsequent yr to safe a brand new pact with the US to permit nuclear gasoline imports.The pact expired final month, and the US then withdrew the licence of Koeberg’s provider. Eskom chief nuclear officer Keith Featherstone says it’ll take a very long time to get a brand new nuclear gasoline provider.For extra monetary information, go to the News24 Enterprise entrance web page.Authorities has simply over a yr to safe a brand new pact with the US with a view to import nuclear gasoline for Koeberg energy station.A key licence to get the gasoline was withdrawn after the Settlement for Cooperation in Peaceable Makes use of of Nuclear Power between the US and South Africa expired on 4 December after 25 years.The US Nuclear Regulatory Fee then withdrew Westinghouse Electrical’s licence to export elements to Sweden that’s wanted for the manufacture of nuclear gasoline that may ultimately be used at Koeberg.On Thursday, Eskom’s chief nuclear officer Keith Featherstone stated that there have been at the moment sufficient nuclear gasoline provides in inventory at Koeberg.”The primary time we’ll want gasoline from Westinghouse, which they do not have authorisation to ship to us, is round mid-2024,” stated Featherstone.Because of this there’s greater than a yr left for presidency to work with the US to re-establish the settlement. There may be additionally an alternative choice: as a part of a non-proliferation settlement underneath the Worldwide Atomic Power Affiliation, Westinghouse can apply for permission to provide gasoline to South Africa, on a once-off foundation.On Friday, the Division of Mineral Sources and Power (DMRE) stated that there’s “no quick disaster”, however that “an pressing decision” is required to permit Westinghouse to supply the gasoline.The DMRE stated it had initiated negotiations for the conclusion of a brand new nuclear cooperation settlement with the US way back to 2018. The DMRE is working with different authorities departments to expedite the talks.Negotiations on a brand new settlement are ongoing and the events have resolved to expedite the method…- DMRE “We’re assured and strongly consider that there’s dedication between the events to conclude the brand new Nuclear Cooperation Settlement to make sure mutual financial profit between the 2 international locations.”Two suppliersEskom solely has two certified nuclear gasoline suppliers – Westinghouse and French firm Framatome.Koeberg Unit 1 depends on gasoline from Westinghouse, whereas Unit 2 depends on gasoline from Framatome. Unit 1 is at the moment offline for refuelling and the alternative of its steam mills.”For the outage we at the moment have [for Unit 1], the gasoline that we have to reload when the outage is over is already onsite and able to be loaded,” stated Featherstone. ”… We see no threat to any of the continued manufacturing of Koeberg on account of the lapsing of the settlement,” he added.READ | Eskom COO job to be scrapped after Oberholzer retiresIt would take a very long time for Eskom to get the required approvals to qualify a brand new nuclear gasoline provider. Because of this, Eskom feels it will be higher simply to revive the settlement with the US for Westinghouse to proceed to provide fuels, Featherstone stated.”To qualify a nuclear gasoline provider for Koeberg is a really lengthy course of. It takes fairly a number of years to get the gasoline certified,” he stated. “… We would like to kind out the problem and get the gasoline from Westinghouse if we will,” Featherstone emphasised.Eskom might probably use the Framatome gasoline for Unit 1 too. However the Framatome gasoline should be mixed with among the Westinghouse gasoline in Unit 1, and that requires testing.Featherstone additional defined that solely a 3rd of the gasoline in a unit is changed at each outage, which is why there would nonetheless be Westinghouse gasoline left in Unit 1 to be mixed with that of Framatome.”We solely exchange a 3rd of the core with new gasoline in each outage – it will require a major quantity of research to be carried out to confirm the combined gasoline – a Westinghouse and Framatome mixture is protected,” Featherstone stated.Eskom downgraded load shedding to Stage 4 on Thursday.