27 November 2022
The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) in collaboration with the Departments of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) have successfully completed a review of South Africa’s research reactor SAFARI-1, conducted by a team of international experts at Pelindaba from 21-25 November 2022.

The International Research Reactor Utilisation Review (IRRUR) is a mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that was requested by the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) Mr Gwede Mantashe to conduct a review that would evaluate current utilisation of the SAFARI-1 reactor in relation to neutron beamlines. This entails reviewing the current model of operation and the management and resources of the facility, in comparison with other leading neutron scattering laboratories, globally.

Necsa Group CEO Mr Loyiso Tyabashe states the importance of peer reviews in the nuclear
industry, “the IRRUR mission plays a significant role in ensuring that Necsa and South Africa
continue to run South Africa’s research reactor safely and optimally. SAFARI-1 plays a huge role globally in the provision of medical radioisotopes for the detection and treatment of cancer. It is a responsibility we aim to fulfil for many years to come as we move steam ahead with a new Multi- Purpose Reactor (MPR) to come online in the early 2030s. We therefore appreciate the IAEA’s support by allocating a team of experts to come and give us credible feedback on our operation and management of SAFARI-1 and infuse the latest best practice. We remain cognisant of our mandate to enrich the nuclear research community with knowledge flowing from our research and impact people’s lives positively with resulting innovations hence our resolve to be the best at what we do”.

This is a fundamental evaluation required, as the Multi-Purpose Reactor (MPR) approved by
Cabinet to replace SAFARI-1 in September 2021 progresses towards feasibility phase. To advance the research utilisation at SAFARI-1, and its natural progression to the large scale
research infrastructure replacement MPR, Necsa made the most of IAEA IRRUR peer review

The IRRUR Mission is one of the key interventions of a national IAEA Technical Cooperation
Project titled “Strengthening Industry, Infrastructure and Innovation through the Utilization of
National Research Reactors”, which commenced in January 2022 for a period of 4 years. IAEA
Technical Cooperation projects supported through contributions from the Department of Science and Innovation, who also contributed significantly to the development of neutron beamlines at SAFARI-1. The Department of Science and Innovation is one of the key strategic partners involved in developing, utilising and ensuring sustainability of the neutron beamlines facilities in South Africa.

“The review gave Necsa an opportunity to have meaningful robust engagements with the experts. The team working on these critical nuclear reactor aspects are grateful to the IAEA for assisting us because this will ensure that the imminent MPR is of an international standard. There was definitely no better way to source the wealth of knowledge we gained, other than through this engagement. The discussions went beyond the scope of terms of reference, because with the face to face conversations one is able to probe and gain more information”. – Necsa Head of Research and Innovation.” – Dr Pradish Rampersadh.

Mr Loyiso Tyabashe adds, “While the Mission was requested for the existing SAFARI-1, we were happy to include the MPR in the scope to ensure that we learn from experiences of other countries who have recently built research reactors. The recommendations will therefore go towards our current operations at SAFARI-1 as well as towards maturing the Feasibility Report of our MPR project”.

Dr Nikelwa Tengimfene
Senior Manager: Corporate Communication & Stakeholder Relations
South African Nuclear Energy Corporation SOC Limited (Necsa)
Tel: 012 305 4454
Cell: 0662934451
E-mail: nikelwa.tengimfene@necsa.co.za

More information about Neutron Beamlines and Neutron Scattering:
Neutron scattering is used extensively in scientific and technological research and development (R&D), education and training programmes at post-graduate level, as well as complement industrial R&D for the investigation of complex and technologically advanced systems. It contributes significantly to the generation of new knowledge through both fundamental and applied research, contributes to very unique investigative tools available to established and new generations of researchers, scientists and engineers in many diverse fields of science and technological applications.

The technique is well established in materials science, including condensed matter physics and
chemistry, geology/mineralogy, nanotechnology, polymer science, life
science/medicine/biotechnology, agricultural sciences, sustainable energy research, sensors and smart materials, new magnetic materials such as spintronics, engineering, archaeology and heritage sciences, palaeontology, etc.

More Information about SAFARI-1:
South Africa’s SAFARI-1 Research Reactor was commissioned in 1965 and through its state-
owned entity the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) it seeks to replace this reactor with a Multi-Purpose Reactor (MPR) by 2030. SAFARI-1 is one of the top four producers of radioisotopes globally, particularly Molybdenum 99 which is used for medical diagnostics. The reactor also boasts an excellent operation record of more than 300 effective full power days per annum on average for the past two decades. Although being well utilised in many aspects, the area of neutron beam utilisation and research infrastructure has room for significant improvement towards the advent of the new MPR.

Background to the MPR Project:
In April 2019, the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) established a Ministerial
Task Team to lead, guide and oversee the implementation of a project to replace SAFARI-1 with a Multi-Purpose Reactor (MPR). The project follows the National Treasury Framework for
Infrastructure Delivery and Procurement Management (FIDPM) and has completed the Project
Initiation Report, Prefeasibility Report, as well as a subsequent independent Gateway Review
there-of. The project is led by the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) SOC Limited in conjunction with the Department of Mineral Resources & Energy (DMRE) and the Department of Science & Innovation (DSI). The project is currently at the feasibility stage.