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US firm Jacobs clinches portion of R20bn contract for Koeberg modifications

US company Jacobs has been appointed to carry out essential engineering modifications as part of a R20bn contract to extend the operational life of South Africa’s only nuclear power plant, Koeberg, by about 20 years.

The two-reactor plant, near Cape Town, generates 5% of the country’s electricity, and is operated by Eskom

In a statement, the international technical professional services company said the project is part of the preparation for the installation of six replacement steam generators, each weighing about 380 tons and about 20m long.

“This project is vital to maintain the pivotal role of nuclear power in South Africa’s energy mix,” said Karen Wiemelt, the firm’s energy security and technology senior vice president.

To date, Wiemelt said, this is the largest single contract for the company’s nuclear team in South Africa, “which has successfully completed numerous engineering, procurement and construction projects to support operations at Koeberg over the past 30 years”.

Jacobs will be responsible for construction management related to modifications to the secondary turbine system. 

The scope of work includes prefabrication of piping, pipe supports and modification, and piping replacement; installation of on-site scaffolding, rigging and lagging; vessel modifications and strengthening; and the replacement of forced air-cooler units.

The company said the current steam generators have been in service since the plant was connected to the national grid in 1984. 

Work on replacing the steam generators for the first of Koeberg’s two units is scheduled to begin during a planned outage in January next year, with the overall project due for completion by 2024.

“Their replacement is an essential part of the plan to extend the operational life of Koeberg by approximately 20 years — from 40 to 60 years,” Jacobs said in its statement.

On its website, Jacobs details how it has carried out numerous engineering, procurement and construction contracts to support operations for Eskom. 

“At Koeberg, our projects range from providing additional spent fuel cooling capacity, station blackout mitigation, and new hydrogen production and bulk storage plant, through to replacing the refuelling water storage tank.” 

About 12.6 tonnes of asbestos roof sheets and 14.1 tonnes of structural steelwork were safely removed ahead of schedule. “We also created a new design to install an independent seal cooling system with an independent power supply system,” according to the Jacobs website.

The headline of this article was amended to reflect that Jacobs was awarded a portion of the R20-billion contract for Koeberg engineering modifications. A previous headline implied the company was awarded the contract in its entirety.

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Sheree Bega
Sheree Bega is an environment reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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