The planned nuclear emergency exercise, held by the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) last month at the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) complex at Pelindaba, west of Pretoria, was deemed successful.
"From what I've seen, Necsa seems to have activated its emergency structures and procedures and managed the situations well," said NNR nuclear technology and waste projects manager Thiagan Pather.
However, the responses of Necsa and the other relevant authorities were tested and are still being evaluated.
The overall objective of the exercise was to evaluate whether emergency departments that took part in the nuclear emergency plan would be able to mitigate or reduce the consequences of an accident at its source, prevent serious deterministic health side effects and reduce the stochastic health effects.
The Madibeng local authority, based in the town of Brits, in the North West, which included representatives from several municipal departments, such as the fire department, as well as the provincial traffic police took part in the exercise.
The exercise included procedures that would need to be implemented if an explosion were to occur in Necsa's Safari-1 reactor building, which would inflict mechanical damage on spent fuel elements in the reactor core and in the spent fuel pool.
The exercise is one of the responsibilities of the NNR under the National Nuclear Regulator Act No 47 of 1999.
Responding to a nuclear emergency requires coordinated action by the nuclear licensee, the relevant local and provincial authorities and emergency services. Consequently, coordinated emergency plans must be drawn up, funded and tested. The NNR must ensure that these plans are effective.