Phakamani Hadebe. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Phakamani Hadebe. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

A fatal incident at the Lethabo Power Station is expected to negatively affect the national power system as it has resulted in a unit being put out of service for three months.

On Wednesday afternoon, “the live steam pressure from the boiler of unit 5 of the Lethabo Power Station ruptured, sending a plume of dust into the air”. It resulted in the death of one Eskom employee on site, while another was rushed to the local hospital, the utility said in a statement.

A work stoppage has been initiated and, following a visit by Eskom management, a thorough investigation has been launched, as per regulatory requirements.

"Based on the preliminary investigation, it is expected that unit 5 will remain out of service for a minimum of three months,”  Eskom group CEO Phakamani Hadebe said.

“The loss of unit 5 will have a negative effect on the power system given that Lethabo Power Station is one of the most cost-effective generators with adequate access to a steady coal supply. All efforts will be focused on the safe and swift return of this unit to the national grid."

In September, Eskom warned of a continued risk of load shedding as 10 of its 15 power stations faced coal-supply shortages due to supply agreements not being fulfilled.

On behalf of the Eskom board, executive management and all Eskom employees, Hadebe sent condolences to the family and friends of the deceased, and wished the injured employee a speedy recovery.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and immediate colleagues of the two affected employees during this difficult period,” he said.

steynl@businesslive.co.za