Saturday, February 25, 2006

S. Africa faces lengthy crippling electricity shortages

South Africa, like most of North America, depends on a mixture of electricity sources and is at the mercy of the transmission grid if local power plants experience problems and power has to be moved any distance from back-up sources. And like most of North America, neither generating capacity nor the grid has been keeping up with growing demand.

According to the Sunday Times, Unit 1 of the Koeberg nuclear plant has been shut down since Christmas day, when a loose bolt damaged a 200 ton rotor in the unit’s generator. It may not be repaired until June. Unit 2 crashed last Saturday and was off line for five days.

Although Unit 2 has been brought back on line, it will run out of its uranium fuel at the end of April and must shut down for 30 to 60 days for refuelling and maintenance before then. The power authorities warned earlier this week that consumers should brace themselves for the shutdown from March 9.

Adding to the equipment woes are the following:
  • Four of Koeberg’s most experienced executives, including its power station manager, plant manager and safety director, have left to take jobs overseas since 2003
  • The entire batch of uranium fuel rods for Koeberg’s sole functioning nuclear reactor was found to be faulty, and recalled to France, in the past three months
Imagine a country prone to violence heading into winter without reliable electricity.

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