The Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) was preparing to retrench about 250 of its employees, trade union Solidarity said on Thursday.
Necsa spokesperson Elliot Mulane confirmed that the nuclear body was currently in a 189 consultation process with the unions to “explore all viable alternatives to retrenchment".
Necsa on Friday said that it was undertaking a review and realignment of the business structure to ensure cost reduction, rationalisation of the organisation and operational efficiency of the group while fulfilling its mandate within its allocated budget.
In March, Necsa chairperson Sisa Njikelana stated that continued reduction of grant allocations and insufficient funding for the nuclear body heightened the risk of failure in meeting its mandate.
Solidarity spokesperson Schalk de Bruin believed the retrenchments could have adverse effects on this country’s nuclear energy programme.
He believed that South Africa had the necessary expertise and skills to move a nuclear programme forward, but warned that the continued retrenchments of the country’s nuclear scientists, citing the failed Pebble Bed Modular Reactor project, were driving nuclear skills to China, the US, Australia and Canada, and casting uncertainty on the future of the country’s nuclear energy plans.
The employees targeted for retrenchment at Necsa included highly skilled nuclear scientists and experts, in addition to standard workers, De Bruin explained.
In the long term, South Africa could end up importing - at a higher cost - the required technologies and skills for the nuclear build.
“Necsa should rather expand its capacity in view of the country’s nuclear energy programme in terms of which at least six nuclear power stations will be built by 2030 at a cost of between R400-billion and R1-trillion,” he added.
South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan called for a power generation mix of 42 600 MW of new capacity by 2030 to meet anticipated demand, of which nuclear energy would contribute at least 9.6 GW between 2023 and 2030.