South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) subsidiary company NTP Radioisotopes (NTP) has reported that, since the imposition of South Africa’s national lockdown in late March, it had been able to dispatch more than 120 shipments of medical radioisotopes to customers around the world. Both Necsa and NTP are State-owned companies.
Because of a worldwide shift of healthcare priorities to fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in a decline in demand for nuclear medical treatments, this number is only a small proportion of what NTP would normally had sent out over this period. However, these shipments have brought the company essential revenue, which has been particularly important given that it had been on the brink of being closed down only a year ago.
NTP had been in that plight because it had been required to shutdown its radiochemicals processing facilities for extended periods, because of regulatory non-compliance issues. As a result the company, which had been profitable, burnt through most of its cash reserves.
“The return-to-service programme launched in May 2019 that managed our return to sustainable commercial production, was also the same programme that enabled us to put a rapid-response Covid-19 Crisis Management Team in place in early March,” highlighted NTP Group MD Tina Eboka. “This also allowed us to continuously engage with and report on time to the National Nuclear Regulator on our safe operating procedures.”
Even before the lockdown was enforced, the Crisis Management Team set up all the necessary protocols, including those for physical distancing and for working from home. These allowed the company to continue producing its radioisotopes.
NTP majority-owned subsidiary company NTP Logistics and the NTP marketing and sales team made certain that time-sensitive medical radioisotopes reached their destinations on time. “Working together with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s Nuclear Unit and other state organisations we have continued to find cargo solutions for various regions,” she reported.
“Although our sales have been adversely affected by the pandemic, by staying in production we were able to secure at least some revenue, which allows us to continue paying staff salaries, and represented an important opportunity to start to rebuild our customer relationships that were damaged after the 2017 shutdowns,” pointed out NTP Group Executive for Finance Precious Hawadi. “We remain committed to the safety and sustainability of our operations to ensure continued employment,” assured Eboka.