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Nuclear Industry Under the Spotlight

August 2, 2019

Department of Mineral Resources and Energy

2 August 2019

The mineral resources and energy department will continue to strive to ensure a sustainable and self-sufficient nuclear industry in line with nuclear policy.

The department’s deputy director general, Zizamele Mbambo, confirmed this during an address at the Southern African Radiation Protection Association annual conference in Pretoria.

He added that necessary support will continue to be provided to entities such as the Nuclear Energy Corporation to support the production of radioisotopes, used to treat cancer.

The department will also “work towards promoting partnerships between entities within the Department such as Pelchem and Mintek, revitalise work on the state pharmaceutical company to secure supply of critical medication for our health system”.

Mr Mbambo also announced that steps are being taken to replace the SAFARI-1 research reactor with a Multi-Purpose Reactor.

“This project seeks to build on our commercial, industrial and scientific research capability and further extend the peaceful uses of nuclear energy globally, as we have done with the current reactor.”

According to Mr Mbambo, a task team has been set up to implement the Multi-Purpose Reactor Project.

Other developments in the pipeline include the National Radioactive Waste Institute working with stakeholders to develop solutions to manage radioactive waste in the country, a Centralised Interim Storage Facility for radioactive waste to be set up by 2025 and the National Nuclear Regulator and the Operator currently preparing for the Long Term Operation for the Koeberg nuclear power plant.

Mr Mbambo confirmed that the department supports the Koeberg nuclear power plant life extension programme in order to ensure energy security.

“The Koeberg Nuclear Power plant has generated electricity for more than 30 years and has shown that nuclear plays an important role as part of the energy mix,” he said.

Recently released International Atomic Energy Agency safety guides will help operators and the regulator to enhance radiation and environmental protection methodologies as part of the extension of Koeberg and proposed new nuclear power stations.

The safety guides focus on radiation protection of the public and environment, regulatory control of radioactive discharges to the environment and the prospective radiological environmental impact assessment for facilities and activities.

Referring to proposed amendments to the National Nuclear Regulator act, Mr Mbambo indicated that a National Dose Register is in the pipeline to record doses from occupational exposure.

The setting up of a Central Dose Registry will “ensure proper national statistical analysis of dose distributions, dose management and reporting to international organizations”.

“The establishment of National Dose Register will ensure that dose records are maintained centrally and independently as well as remaining retrievable in the long term.”

According to the department’s annual performance plan for 2019/20, the plan is to table a Draft National Nuclear Regulator Amendment Bill to cabinet for approval in the current financial year.