South Africa begins search for new nuclear reactor

South Africa’s state-owned nuclear energy firm, South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA), has launched a tender to replace its ageing nuclear research reactor, Safari 1.

Safari 1 was originally commissioned in 1965 and is scheduled for decommissioning in 2030.

The construction of a new reactor will also help South Africa maintain its position as one of the world’s top producers of Molybdenum-99, which is used in medical diagnostic imaging.

Molybdenum-99, or Mo-99, is used in millions of diagnostic tests for cancer, heart disease and other illnesses worldwide.

NTP Radioisotopes is a subsidiary of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA) and uses the 20 megawatt Safari 1 research reactor at Pelindaba, to produce Mo-99.

The plant had to be shut down for three months at the beginning of 2018 after a hydrogen leak was detected.

It is currently in care and maintenance, NECSA said, as it released a request for information (RFI) to the market, the first step in a tender process to help gauge appetite from a potential preferred supplier to construct a new multi-purpose reactor (MPR).

“The MPR will continue with the legacy of producing medical radioisotopes, which are used to treat thousands of patients diagnosed with cancer all over the world,” Loyiso Tyabashe, group chief executive at NECSA, said in a statement.

The NTP is a top four global supplier of medical radioisotopes to the United States, Japan and countries in Europe and the Middle East, NECSA said.

The request for information ends on 10 March, the company added.

South Africa’s first commercial nuclear power reactor began operating in 1984 but its nuclear industry dates back to the mid-1940s, when the predecessor organisation to the Atomic Energy Corporation (AEC) was formed.

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