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Koeberg manager: Not just a 9 to 5 job

For Velaphi Ntuli, manager of the Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant, waking up at 04:00 and working until 19:00 is considered just another day at the office.

This is how long it takes him each day to attend all the management meetings, read and answer all his emails, do a site inspection, make sure the plant is operating optimally, and take care of his family.

“If I am not here, I am at Megawatt Park in Johannesburg, says Ntuli, originally from Winterveld in the North West Province.

The father of three says his love for the company he works for has not changed in nearly two decades.

“For me, what I love most is the fact that what we do makes an impact on the whole of South Africa – crèches, schools, churches, hospitals and the economy.”

Ntuli completed his studies at the University of Pretoria where he studied Electrical Engineering.

His first job was at the then Spoornet (modern day Transnet) where he worked for almost nine months before joining Koeberg in 2001 as an engineer in training.

In 2004 he completed his Advanced Diploma in Nuclear Physics, after which he joined Koeberg’s nuclear engineer programme.

In 2005 he became manager of groups: electrical systems engineering.

Ntuli also became head of the plant engineering group in 2008 where he was charged with looking after the plant’s systems and maintenance and ensuring the efficient operation of the plant.

“In 2013 I travelled to Atlanta in the US to take part in the World Association of Nuclear Operations, or Wano, with which Koeberg is affiliated. I did a peer review, assessing their performance and showing them where they need to improve.

“There I spent about two and a half years before returning,” Ntuli says.

In 2016 he started working at Koeberg again where he was head of engineer groups: nuclear engineering, focusing on design and programming.

“Later that same year I started working in an acting manager position at the plant, and much later I was appointed in a permanent position as the manager of the power station,” he tells TygerBurger during an interview at his office overlooking the plant and the Atlantic Ocean.

The key challenges he experiences vary, he says.

One of those challenges is when they experience a shutdown period, or an outage.

“This is when we refuel. The best nuclear plants take about 28 days. We however only manage to do it in about 40 days.

“Our main goal is to improve and to reach 28 days.”

The plant conducts a planned shutdown, or outage, on one of its two reactor units once every 18 months.

“Our mission is to ensure that we operate Koeberg safely and to ensure our availability is high at all times.

“Koeberg also has a few good training programmes, which means that our staff are in demand, especially in the United Arab Emirates,” says Ntuli, who has a 17-year history with the national energy provider, Eskom.

Leaving the power plant someday, he says, will be a difficult task as he has come to love the plant, its people and Cape Town. “I would love to see Koeberg succeed and be recognised as the best nuclear plant in the world.

“I am willing to walk that journey until that day,” the 42 year old adds.

Eskom has a staff compliment of over 1200 at the Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant when operating normally.

This can increase to 2000 when outages are conducted.

This will however also include their support staff and contractors.

What is your opinion on this article? Let us know at briewe@tygerburger.co.za.

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