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SA in line to build nuclear security academy

Mar 23 2012 16:28 Sapa

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Cape Town - South Africa is line to build a US-sponsored nuclear security training academy for English-speaking countries around world, MPs heard on Friday.

Dan Moagi, group human rights executive for the SA Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa), told the portfolio committee on energy that an agreement on the academy was recently concluded with the US.

"We have just concluded an agreement with the US for nuclear security training," he said.

"They are prepared to donate $2m in this regard. The idea here is to build a security training academy. We are doing this in collaboration with the US.

"The focus is not to train nuclear security personnel for SA, but for English-speaking countries globally."

Moagi said Necsa was taking the idea "seriously" and was "busy with feasibilities now".

"Everything is taking shape," he said.

The corporation is also working with South Korea on a nuclear skills project. A group of South Korean nuclear experts visited South Africa last week.

"They are prepared to train our people free of charge. The financial expectation on our side is to make sure we pay travel expenses and boarding, but training will be for free. They are also prepared to take our people to South Korea."

The United Arab Emirates had also invited South Africa to take part in its project to build four nuclear power stations.

"They offered to give South Africans exposure during their nuclear build programme, so that by the time we start with our nuclear programme our people will have managed to have acquired practical skills in this regard."

"Upskilling"

Don Robertson, acting chief executive officer of Necsa, said the corporation's spending on "upskilling" nuclear workers was one of the reasons why it had run into financial difficulties.

"It's exactly this that is causing a problem for us now. We have upskilled to an extent that we are running into financial difficulties," he said.

The committee's chairperson Sisa Njikelana said he was concerned about the corporation's vague and unclear plans on its role in the nuclear build programme.

"We are talking about a massive investment," he said.

"I would have loved to have had a couple of slides from Necsa articulating that this is what they are doing... with regards to their role for the nuclear build programme. We have to understand the bigger picture."

The South African government would have to make a decision soon on whether to build the country's next nuclear power station.

In February, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters called for the government to make a decision on its nuclear programme, saying the country was behind schedule on the national resources plan to generate around 9 600MW of electricity at nuclear power stations by 2030.

She told an energy summit in Johannesburg that the government was focusing particularly on obtaining sources of uranium, the development of a uranium converter plant, a uranium enrichment plant and a plant for manufacturing nuclear fuel.

The process should have started in 2011, but was delayed after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

It was important for the government to "take another look" at safety matters.

"The fact that we weren't able to reach a decision last year means that our programme is behind schedule," Peters said.

Peters said the country has a serious shortage of skills for a nuclear power industry.

"It's clear that we will have to develop a strategy to obtain the skills to support the entire nuclear power programme," she said.

fukushima disaster  |  nuclear power
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