The Department of Energy (DoE), in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), was investigating possible plans for the retention of skills critical to South Africa’s nuclear build programme, Minister of Energy Dipuo Peters said on Monday.
Responding to a Parliamentary question posed by Congress of the People Member of Parliament Kenneth Sinclair, on the pending retrenchment of 250 Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) staff, the Minister stated that the department was working with the DST on the skills strategy for the nuclear programme to balance risks of excess skills and skills shortages.
This followed the announcement last month that Necsa was preparing to retrench about 250 of its employees, including highly skilled nuclear scientists and experts, in addition to standard workers.
As at March 2011, Necsa employed 2 179 workers, including 115 scientists, 69 engineers, 430 skilled workers, 328 semi-skilled workers, 139 management staff, 38 unskilled workers and 23 directors.
Solidarity spokesperson Schalk de Bruin believed the retrenchments could have adverse effects on this country’s nuclear energy programme.
However, Peters added in her Parliamentary response, dated June 11, that as a point of departure, Necsa management have made a commitment to the unions that the retention of critical skills would be a priority should a retrenchment process be inevitable.
Necsa spokesperson Elliot Mulane confirmed that the nuclear body was currently undertaking a Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act consultation process with the unions to “explore all viable alternatives to retrenchment".
The nuclear corporation 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 reducing 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.
The DoE was allocated R6.8-billion for the 2012/13 financial year, of which Necsa was set to receive R554-million to “continue with its central role as the anchor for nuclear energy, research, development and innovation”. In 2011, the body was allocated R586-million.
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.