Benef its of nu­clear plan in spot­light

The Herald (South Africa) - - NEWS - Guy Rogers rogersg@ti­soblack­star.co.za

PRO-nu­clear bodies gath­ered at Jef­freys Bay this week to talk about the busi­ness and train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties that will be sparked if South Africa’s con­tro­ver­sial nu­clear pro­gramme goes ahead.

Nu­clear physi­cist Gaopalelwe Santswere, who chairs the South African Young Nu­clear Pro­fes­sion­als So­ci­ety, which hosted the con­fer­ence, said the coun­try’s nu­clear sec­tor needed new blood.

Skills short­ages in the sec­tor had been ag­gra­vated by the retirement of skilled staff and poor suc­ces­sion plans, he said.

“There has also been the un­will­ing­ness of ex­perts to trans­fer knowl­edge, in­ad­e­quate train­ing pro­grammes and em­i­gra­tion of ex­pe­ri­enced pro­fes­sion­als to first-world coun­tries.”

The chal­lenge had to be met, oth­er­wise it would lead to hir­ing of con­sul­tants in most jobs, he said.

The en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment of Eskom’s pro­posed de­vel­op­ment of a nu­clear plant at Thyspunt near Cape St Fran­cis is still be­ing con­sid­ered by the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs, and the Na­tional Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tor is still re­view­ing the util­ity’s ap­pli­ca­tion in this re­gard.

The govern­ment’s plan to roll out 9 600 megawatts of new nu­clear power was also ruled in­valid by the Cape Town High Court in April last year.

The judge ruled that five dif­fer­ent as­pects of the plan were il­le­gal in­clud­ing the Depart­ment of En­ergy hand­ing over the nu­clear pro­cure­ment process to Eskom with­out al­low­ing for pub­lic as­sess­ment of the move.

Tyabashe said that af­ter the court rul­ing the govern­ment was seek­ing to “stan­dard­ise” the process and make it open to scru­tiny through par­lia­ment.

He said he did not think this week’s con­fer­ence was pre­ma­ture.

“The worst thing will be if our peo­ple are not ready and then when the project starts we have to bring in for­eign­ers.

“This con­fer­ence is not a prom­ise. It is about lev­el­ling the play­ing field. “We are here to lis­ten and to tai­lor op­por­tu­ni­ties.” A new nu­clear plant would not need only nu­clear physi­cists and en­gi­neers but also a wide range of other ser­vice providers, he said.

“It’s an econ­omy built around a nu­clear plant.”

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