Necsa welcomes approval of Multipurpose Reactor

The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) says it welcomes cabinet’s approval of a Multipurpose Reactor (MPR) at the nuclear plant.

The MPR is intended to succeed SAFARI-1 when it reaches its end of life. SAFARI-1, a 20 MW light water-cooled research reactor, started operation on 18 March 1965. It is operated by Necsa and located in Broederstroom.

Necsa said the SAFARI-1 boasts a proud safety record having operated for over 56 years without any major incidents. The cabinet’s approval allows for good lead-time required in rolling out the procurement and construction of the MPR so that the radioisotope production, research and development and related nuclear technology innovations continue without interruptions.

“Cabinet approval of SAFARI-1 replacement is a major milestone for South Africa, the continent and the whole world,” Loyiso Tyabashe, Group Chief Executive said. South Africa, through Necsa and its wholly owned subsidiary NTP Radioisotopes, has established itself as a leading global producer of reactor-based radioisotopes. Medical radioisotopes manufactured here include active pharmaceutical ingredients that are mainly exported in bulk as input material for radiopharmaceutical products used for the diagnosis of serious illnesses and the treatment of cancers. Necsa, by virtue of the availability of the SAFARI-1 research reactor, forms the corner stone of nuclear medicine domestically and globally through its production of radiopharmaceutical products.

”The realisation of the MPR project will ensure SA remains amongst the top four global radioisotopes producers as well as ensuring continuation of research and development on nuclear technology. This places Necsa on a path to provide much needed radioactive isotopes for medical and industrial applications, execution of research through beam lines, and jobs which are essential for our economy.” Tyabashe said.

The MPR provides options to produce new radioisotopes that are considered the future in therapeutic nuclear medicine. These includes 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.

Research collaborations with academia and industry utilising neutron beam line techniques contribute to SAFARI-1’s scientific visibility through publications in open literature, contributions at local and international conferences, as well as playing prominent roles in projects with many South African universities in advanced research and postgraduate qualifications.

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 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.

“There will be some 5 000 direct and 26 000 indirect jobs created during construction. 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”.