South Africa’s controversial nuclear energy plans have overwhelmingly overshadowed the more expansive, overall industry that has quietly developed in the country, which has become a world leader in nuclear medicine.
Speaking at the one-day nuclear forum on the sidelines of the PowerGen Africa conference, on Wednesday, Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (Niasa) MD Knox Msebenzi said it was in South Africa’s interest to stimulate the nuclear industry across the entire nuclear cycle.
“It is not just about gigawatts, it is about an industry,” he said.
The strategic objective is to expand the industry further, from the beneficiation of the country’s abundance of uranium right up to the generation of electricity through one of the cleanest energy sources.
The nuclear industry boasted significant nuclear fuel cycle beneficiation, said South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) commercial arm Pelindaba Enterprises senior executive manager Ruby Ramatsui.
Fluorspar, zirconium and uranium formed three components of the beneficiation options available to South Africa.
Meanwhile, South Africa made a significant contribution in terms of the production of nuclear medicine solutions for diagnostics and treatment worldwide. Necsa subsidiary NTP Radioisotopes produces medical isotopes, particularly Molybdenum-99, for use in more than 100 000 nuclear medical procedures globally daily.
Nuclear applications are also popular in electronics; chemicals; manufacturing; plasma technology; insect eradication, including the release of insects sterilised by irradiation; radiation and the sterilisation of medical instruments and supplies; industrial applications, such as the detection of leaks and defects in closed systems; and domestic applications, such as smoke detectors and self-luminous safety signs.