Nuclear organisations stage public demonstration

21st September 2020 By: Rebecca Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Six organisations representing professionals in the country’s nuclear sector jointly staged a public demonstration in Pretoria on Saturday in support of nuclear technology and the expansion of the South African nuclear sector. The demonstration was carried out in full compliance with anti-Covid-19 safety protocols, including physical distancing, frequent use of sanitiser and the wearing of masks.

The organisations concerned were Nehawu Nuclear Energy Workers (Nnewo), the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa, the South African Vest Group, the South African Young Nuclear Professionals Society, the Southern African Radiation Protection Association, and Women in Nuclear of South Africa. The slogan for the demonstration was “Stand up for nuclear!”

Of these organisations, the most recently created is Nnewo. This has set up a 20-strong Nehawu Professionals Technical Committee, which includes both professional and executive members. The professional members include scientists and engineers in a wide array of nuclear and nuclear-related fields.

The six organisations jointly pointed out that South Africa had successfully operated the Koeberg nuclear power plant (NPP) for more than 30 years, without a single fatal incident. Further, nuclear power plants did not emit damaging pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides and that nuclear provided clean and reliable baseload electricity.

They consequently urged the government to issue a nuclear installation licence to the Koeberg NPP to allow it to operate until 2044. Also, 2 000 MWe of light water reactors should be built in the country, in affordable and manageable phases. Further, 500 MWe of small modular reactors should be pursued; these could be built inland and replace current coal-fired power stations which would reach the end of their operational lives within a few years.

They also called for the construction of a multipurpose research reactor to maintain the country’s radiopharmaceutical value chain, as well as the further development of the National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute. The organisations further asserted that nuclear energy was the only solution to load-shedding, that it was also the only technology that could address the country’s economic and energy security concerns and that it would certainly provide both abundant clean energy and sustainable employment, thus reviving the economy and helping to eradicate poverty.