Eskom suspends Koeberg GM as delayed unit investigation ensues
The state-owned electricity company Eskom has confirmed that the general manager of its Koeberg nuclear power plant, Velaphi Ntuli, has been suspended while investigations are underway on the plant’s performance.
Meanwhile, Eskom’s nuclear director Riedewaan Bakardian oversee plant operations.
The utility has deemed it urgent to investigate the plant’s problems, given that one of its largest generating units – with a capacity of 900 MW – has been down since January.
This unit could have contributed to reducing the depth of the load shedding that Eskom has put in place in recent weeks.
The unit was plagued with delays, causing a significant delay in the return to service date; however, the return to service of the unit is scheduled for the third week of June.
Eskom assures the public that there are no nuclear safety concerns at Koeberg and that, if necessary, the required time will be taken to complete outstanding work before returning the unit to the grid.
In a statement released by the Koeberg Alert Alliance (KAA), the anti-nuclear militant organization worries that Bakardien is not able to give full attention to all of its responsibilities and wonders what aspects of Eskom’s nuclear operations could be overlooked.
The organization says the investigation proves that there is a lack of nuclear expertise within Eskom and that there is too much dependence on too few people.
KAA says that, presumably, an underperforming factory manager has also neglected to effectively manage things in other areas such as maintenance, repairs and emergency preparedness.
Problems in these areas can only arise in the event of a malfunction of one of the nuclear reactors with potentially catastrophic consequences.
The organization adds that when it comes to the next person appointed to the job, the message is clear: keep the plant running or face a suspension. It is deeply problematic.
There are times when a minor equipment failure should result in a reactor shutdown even though the likelihood of it causing an accident is low, according to nuclear safety protocols.
But any new director will be in conflict between being very cautious for safety reasons and keeping the plant running for fear of a suspension, says KAA.
On another note, the National Union of Miners sees the suspension as a continuing attempt by the COO and CEO of the Eskom Group to purge black Eskom executives, citing poor performance issues.
The union adds that it cannot ignore what it considers to be a reversal of the gains of the transformation.