Tag Archive | Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa

Parliament lists its recommendations to minister of energy

In a parliamentary report on the department of energy’s strategic report for the year 2011/2, of which the final recommendations will go to the minister of energy, a call was made for “loopholes” in the Petroleum Products Act to be expedited and to increase funding of both the nuclear regulator (Nersa) and the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa).

Both Nersa and Necsa had drawn attention in their annual budget vote presentations earlier to Parliament on the general shortage of funds appropriated in terms of Pravin Gordhan’s 2012/3 budget, Nersa complaining that their budget was so insufficiently funded as to become a “danger to South Africa”.

On the subject of Nersa, the final page of the committee’s report to the minister states that Nersa should have its “mandate increased” to cover “petroleum pipeline and piped gas” and also to deal with the “deteriorating electricity infrastructure situation”. The report also said that Nersa should involve itself in South Africa’s nuclear build programme, as should Necsa.

In the subject of electricity distribution, recommendations included the necessity of introducing urgently the smart grid plans which became evident during departmental presentations. They drew attention to the SANEDI plan, called by the Central Energy Fund a “Smarter Grid”, which was the integration of two main utility infrastructures in South Africa, the electricity grid and the existing information and the telecommunications infrastructure.

The committee drew the attention of the minister to their concern on the continued reliance on the Sasol pipeline carrying natural gas from Mozambique, asking the minister to note their views that gas exploitation would become a major issue in the development of Southern Africa.

They noted that refinery capacity figures were “very low”, as evidenced by the quantity and volumes being imported, and that storage capacity and infrastructure development in this area was therefore an immediate necessity. On refineries generally, the committee noted the “very encouraging stance” adopted by PetroSA on its own refinery project, “Project Mathombo”.

The committee drew attention to the work of the South African Supplier Development Agency (SASDA) to accelerate progress in the development of black suppliers in terms of BBEEE and economic growth plans of government but said that “Engen, BP, Shell and Chevron have not contributed at all to transformation in the areas where SASDA was involved”.

The recommendations to the minister pointed out that promises were made in terms of the agreements signed “but nothing has happened”. SASDA’s attempts to get the companies on board, “even after engaging their respective CEO’s, had proved fruitless”.



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NECSA isotope sales OK but group not financed correctly

More funding from the central fiscus was needed, said Don Robertson, Acting CEO of National Energy Corporation South Africa (NECSA). Robertson is charged with the task of promoting research and development in the field of nuclear energy and radiation sciences and technology in South Africa.

The corporation appeared “in limbo” as far as the future nuclear strategy of South Africa was concerned, he felt.

Robertson said NECSA was a repository of nuclear skills in South Africa and had to be in a position to advise the South Africa on future direction, turn-key projects and remain custodian of nuclear technology.

NECSA was in a position to commence the “New Build” programme that was envisaged into future strategic direction for South Africa.

Their mandate included fuel manufacturing and therefore energy supply, although it was not on any official government committee regarding “New Build”, Robertson said.

To this end, NECSA has “upskilled” the abilities of its staff, retaining the necessary staff and planning ahead from a human resources angle “but this has already positioned us into conflict with budgetary constraints”, he added.

Chairman Sisa Njikelena noted that it seemed as if NECSA was being ignored by ministerial decisions on nuclear strategy.

Clearly NECSA is underfunded, Robertson said. However, inasmuch that salaries and expenses halfway through the year exceeded budget, NECSA in the meanwhile had international accreditation for enrichment of nuclear fuel and importation of nuclear energy equipment. All of this was difficult in the light of the unconfirmed future development of nuclear capital investment in South Africa.

The task of NECSA included the processing source material, special nuclear material and restricted material and to reprocess and enrich source material and nuclear material. Don Robertson, in presenting his budget, said NECSA stood as the anchor for nuclear energy research, development and innovation in SA and participated considerably in the uranium value chain. It was also the task of NECSA to develop uranium conversion capabilities and simultaneously seek to obtain access to established uranium enrichment programmes, plus develop a strategy to develop nuclear fuel fabrication capabilities.

NECSA in the year under review received R548m (2011/2012) with next year forecast at a lesser sum of R487m. Commercial activity in the form of NTP Radioisotopes, the SAFARI-1 Reactor and the NECSA MTR fuel department have managed to maintain the NECSA group in a strong position, he said, and sales achieved R869m. The SAFARI reactor was successfully converted to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel.

However in answer to questions, he said that NECSA “needed to be capitalised to a considerably greater extent “ if NECSA was to meet its future possible mandate, conduct its present activities under the current conditions and go into the future”. In conjunction with the USA government and IAEA, a security or nuclear safety staff training centre had been commenced, funded by these entities.

Training was being undertaken abroad for no charge, provided NECSA paid board and living expenses and South Africans were being trained in time for commencement of South Africa’s nuclear programme should this be commenced. The supply of low-enriched nuclear fuel was needed by many other countries, particularly by the USA. The development of this process in South Africa was being closely watched.

Meanwhile, the sale of isotopes was a major form of revenue with good development potential, he said, and there were also “excellent relationships” with most suppliers of fuel. The  NECSA sales strategy plan included a projected increases of sales from R194m (2011/2012) to R333m by 2014 and generalised NTP isotope group sales to R1,7bn by the same date.

“It would a fair assumption that the country will be following the route of  pressurised water reactor (PWR), technology insofar as energy supply was concerned, South Africa having discarded the pebble bed system. It was apparent that French and American technologies might be used, the cost of financing and extent being dependant on the number of reactors to be built, which number again was dependant on the amount of energy to be sold and/or exported.”

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