By Fiona Wakelin
Speaking at the 64th session of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, confirmed that nuclear power will continue to play a pivotal role in South Africa’s energy mix – and ensure we transition from high to low carbon emissions.
“I applaud the IAEA for the theme “Atoms for Peace and Development”, which directs us to intellectually take up the role of nuclear technology. We must educate society that nuclear is, in many ways, a technology of the future.” – Minister Mantashe
The Hon. Minister also touched on the powerful role nuclear has to play in radiation medicine, and related nuclear techniques, to address conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, tuberculosis and malnutrition. Nuclear medicine involves procedures such as PET/CT scans that use radioactive sources to help doctors to diagnose and manage these conditions.
“In a continent like ours, Africa, where we are confronted with diseases like cancer, ebola, malaria and others, the medicinal role of nuclear is beyond question. South Africa is committed to contribute towards enhancing African development, including through the peaceful use of nuclear energy, science, and technology. COVID-19 has re-emphasised the importance of global solidarity to deal with these challenges in a collaborative manner,” – Minister Mantashe.
Replacement and upgrade of nuclear research reactor
Minister Mantashe further outlined the government’s commitment to long-term security through the upgrading of the nuclear reactor SAFARI-1:
“We thank the IAEA for its support through the Safety Aspects of Long-Term Operation missions on the Koeberg nuclear power plant, with the most recent pre-mission taking place in September 2019…
“Since the establishment of a Ministerial Task Team in 2019, to develop a replacement by 2030, we have approved the Project Initiation Report that recommends that SAFARI-1 be replaced with a Multi-Purpose Reactor. The project has advanced to the pre-feasibility stage.”
As can be seen from the following commentary by Dr Derik Wolvaardt, this is in line with international standards:
As nuclear plants age and approach their end of design life conditions, utilities are embarking on plant life extension projects. This typically involves extending the life of plants from 40 to 60 years. These life extension projects involve hardware replacements and upgrades, as well as extensive safety and aging assessments that lead to oversight programmes needed to obtain the regulatory approval for extending the operating licence of the plant – Dr Derik Wolvaardt, Nuclear Engineering Specialist, Lesedi Nuclear Services, South Africa.