Necsa’s new nuclear reactor will cost R12 billion

The new nuclear multipurpose reactor (MRP) at Necsa will reportedly cost about R12 billion and construction is expected to start in 2026, Moneyweb reported last week.

The cabinet recently approved the reactor that will replace the current SAFARI-1 reactor. It is estimated that between 5 000 and 26 000 jobs will be created during construction of the reactor. Safari-1 is one of the four leading producers of medical radioisotopes in the world used to treat millions of patients annually. It also provides support for scientific research, development and innovation in medicine, agriculture, palaeontology and bioscience.

Necsa spokesperson, Ntombikhona Mthombeni, did not confirm the reported cost and said the cost will be detailed by the market through the Request For Information (RFI) expected to go out during November.

“The replacement will ensure South Africa remains one of the leading countries in these fields and benefit from the new technologies in this environment. The project will be led by a number of related departments and Necsa as the main client,” the cabinet said in a statement summarising its 14 September meeting, published on 20 September.

“The MPR project is expected to have significant social, economic and environmental benefits for the country. A substantial portion of products will be sourced locally during the MPR construction thus boosting the local and national economy” David Nicholls, chairperson of the Necsa board said.

The nuclear reactor will provide employment to about 750 full-time employees and additional 3 800 indirect jobs for its operation and fulfilment of its research mandate at the NBLC during its operational lifetime.

Necsa said the MPR is geared towards provision of health care benefits to the South African community with respect to diagnostic and therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals. Other fields such as mining and industry, power generation, agriculture, geosciences, forensics and education in South Africa will have access to a wide range of other applications that are only possible with a high flux nuclear reactor.

The MPR provides a wider range of manufacturing possibilities and potential markets that can be harnessed, and will allow Necsa to produce new radioisotopes that are seen as the future in therapeutic nuclear medicine.

This includes the production of short-range radioisotopes that will be delivered by smart delivery systems to tumour cells, radiating cell by cell and thereby eliminating the cancer while preserving surrounding healthy tissue.