Benef its of nuclear plan in spotlight
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.”