Koeberg renovation: Mantashe turns down help


The minister of mineral resources and energy, Gwede Mantashe, must “bear the full blame” for the “sabotage of the Koeberg nuclear power plant’s life extension project” after he blatantly refused to accept assistance from the International Nuclear Agency (IAEA). So say DA MPs Kevin Mileham and Ghaleb Cachalia.

This follows comments made this afternoon by the Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, in which he admitted that he is “very, very concerned” that the Koeberg renewal is behind schedule and that it may lead to higher phases of load shedding which may continue until 2024.

RNews previously reported that the IAEA visited Koeberg in March 2022 for an inspection after Eskom applied for Koeberg’s license to be renewed to extend its lifespan by another 20 years. The current license expires in 2024 and for approval to grant an extension, major renovation and modernization work must be done. However, according to that report, the agency was very concerned and revealed that the life extension project was in crisis.

The DA consequently requested the IAEA in writing in September 2022 to provide a group of nuclear power plant experts to help with the Koeberg extension project.

“We specifically asked that the contingent of IAEA experts be deployed together with Koeberg engineers to get the project back on track to ensure successful implementation.”

The Director General of the IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi, wrote to the DA on November 8, 2022, saying that the IAEA is ready to provide assistance.

Grossi emphasized that this assistance can only be made available after a formal request from the host nuclear power plant (Eskom), regulatory authority (NNR) and relevant parties (Minister of Energy). If these three parties made the request, the IAEA was ready to make technical assistance available through the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Safety and Security.

“When the DA presented this offer of assistance to Mantashe, he wrote back and let it be known that he was dissatisfied because we did not ‘follow diplomatic protocols in the interaction with the IAEA’. He was not at all interested in the offer of assistance, but rather that diplomatic protocol had not been met. Mantashe even went so far as to say that there was nothing wrong with the Koeberg life extension process because the recommendations of the IAEA’s review mission were ‘fully integrated into Eskom’s work on the Koeberg life extension project’.”

Eskom also informed the DA that “the Koeberg life extension project is on the right track…” after they were informed of the offer of assistance from the IAEA.

“The ANC government should not be surprised about the Koeberg life extension project not being on schedule, because they flatly refused an olive branch of assistance from the world body that regulates nuclear energy. Mantashe essentially became a burden on South Africa’s energy security and should have been fired a long time ago, if it were not for a president who is controlled by indecision and political convenience.”