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Topnews, Statements

18. March 2015


18 March 2015

We welcome international guests to South Africa, Pretoria and to Pelindaba in beautiful natural surroundings.

The Minister of Energy, Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson,

Deputy Minister of Energy, Ms Thembi Majola

Dr Yukiya Amano, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency,

The Chairperson and CEO of NECSA,

Senior officials

Honoured Guests

Sanibonani, Molweni, Goeienand, Dumelang, and Good Evening. 

We welcome international guests to South Africa, Pretoria and to Pelindaba in beautiful natural surroundings.

We are gathered here today to mark the 50th anniversary of the SAFARI-1 nuclear research reactor. 

This site has for decades been an iconic landmark in this part of South Africa. 

More than 20 years ago our country made a determination to use nuclear technology only for peaceful purposes. 

SAFARI has been instrumental in this regard, leading to the creation of many products with have a positive impact in the daily lives of people around the world.

As humanity advances, so does also the need to search for solutions to complex problems that we face.

For this reason all countries place a premium on research and development.

This leads to the emergence of new products, services and processes.

We are thus proud that from SAFARI our country has also been contributing to major scientific innovation. 

Many products have emerged from the work done at SAFARI, ranging from those used in nuclear medicine to industry.  

SAFARI has therefore placed South Africa in the global map.

Today we are among the leaders in the production of isotopes that are used in nuclear medicine. 

These are also used in the diagnosis and treatment of critical diseases such as cancer. 

From Pelindaba we have a proud record of exporting these on time to more than 60 countries. 

Therefore the work done here at Pelindaba directly saves the lives of people in all continents. 

SAFARI is also central to industrial development as some of its outputs can be used in a range of other sectors for materials testing.

SAFARI has also allowed us to collaborate with international institutions such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other countries as we seek advanced solutions to some of the problems facing the world. 

Distinguished guests;

Today the SAFARI reactor stands out as being among the most utilised in the world, operating for more hours per year compared to others. 

This is also an important achievement attesting to our ability as a country to operate nuclear facilities with high standards of safety. 

Our nuclear safety record is impeccable not only in SAFARI but also in the operation of the Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant, which also turned 30 in 2014. 

Our nuclear safety record is underpinned by a robust nuclear regulatory system.

SAFARI was the first research reactor in the world to convert from using weapons grade fuel to a low enriched type. 

This was yet another significant technical advancement by our country. 

We took this decision consciously, also affirming our commitment to the global cause of nuclear security. 

SAFARI is thus a clear testament to South Africa’s ability to operate nuclear facilities according to world standards. 

Given our plans to start a nuclear new build programme as part of our energy security programme, we have to use the expertise that we have mastered at NECSA, including the operation of the SAFARI reactor. 

There should be no doubt that we have the expertise and the knowledge in the nuclear disciplines. 

Of course for the new build programme we have to do more in this regard. 

We have to expose more of our people to the study of nuclear sciences.  We have to enhance our collaboration with the IAEA and other international institutions.

We must focus on training because our nuclear new build programme is about industrialisation so that in decades to come, South Africa should also be exporting nuclear products and services. 

I am pleased that already a number of training opportunities for young South Africans have materialised with a number of countries.

The Department of Energy and NECSA, on behalf of our country, have entered into a number of training agreements with countries some of whom are represented here today.

In order to be ready to meet the demand of the nuclear new build programme, we will send 300 young South Africans for specialised nuclear skills training to international partners this year.

In this regard a group of 50 young South Africans from the nuclear field will be travelling to China in April to study various courses.

We also have training partnerships with the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and France.  We plan to enhance these collaborations and avail these opportunities to South Africans from all walks of life. 

Nuclear skills all over the world tend to decline when there are no nuclear new build projects.  That is why we are taking a determined effort in this area.

This focus on training is crucial because our nuclear new build programme is also about further rekindling the industrialisation agenda of South Africa.

Our nuclear new build programme is underpinned by clear policy principles including the following commitment:

Nuclear Energy shall be used as part of South Africa’s diversification of primary energy sources and to ensure security of energy supply.

Nuclear Energy shall contribute to economic growth and technology development in South Africa through investment in infrastructure, creation of jobs and the further development of skilled workers.

Government shall encourage the development of appropriate institutional arrangements and thereby ensure the development of human resources competent to discharge the responsibility of managing a nuclear infrastructure.

NECSA, through its manufacturing capabilities, is already exporting nuclear components abroad. 

This is the base that we need to build upon and enhance as we launch our new build programme.

Ladies and gentlemen

May I take this moment to acknowledge the Director General of the IAEA, Mr Amano who has come all the way from Vienna, Austria to celebrate with us this international milestone reached by SAFARI-1. 

I would like to congratulate NECSA and the SAFARI team for the work that they have done in operating the reactor and in finding solutions to many challenges and placing our country in the world map.

I wish you a successful conference.

I thank you.


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