The Potchefstroom campus of the North West University (NWU) is hosting, from Monday to Thursday, a workshop to plan the creation of a network for nuclear education, science and technology in South Africa. The creation of such a network would bring this country into line with many other civil nuclear energy and technology countries and create a structure that would be able to interface directly with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
"At NWU, working with Necsa [South African Nuclear Energy Corporation], [national electricity utility] Eskom and other universities, we've realised we're all working in silos, sometimes very small silos with only one or two people," explained NWU programme manager: nuclear engineering Anthonie Cilliers. "So we've decided to make a collaborative effort, to bring all [nuclear] researchers and institutions together, to work together, to get critical mass. We're too small to work apart. This week we're putting the formal framework in place."
There are three groups of "stakeholders" involved: universities; industry, Necsa and the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) and, as external observers and advisers, the South African Department of Energy and the IAEA. The aim is to have the programme officially endorsed by the IAEA by the end of next year, but for it to start functioning early next year.
"What we want to do is get the country network going," he affirmed. Once it is endorsed by the IAEA, it will be able to plug into that organisation's Africa Regional Nuclear Educational, Science and Technology network, better known as AFRA-NEST. There are equivalent organisations on other continents, which link up to form a global network. "This will unlock facilities and expertise, continent wide and world wide."
Universities represented at the workshop were NWU, the Universities of the Witwatersrand, Pretoria and Johannesburg and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. (This does not mean that any other universities were or will be excluded.) Industry was represented by the Nuclear Industries Association of South Africa and by Necsa. The NNR also participated.