Russia is interested in building South African research reactor

26 June 2012

Russian State-owned nuclear group Rosatom is interested in bidding for any tender from the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) for a new research reactor or Dedicated Isotope Production Reactor (DIPR) to replace the current Safari-1 research reactor.

Necsa is currently carrying out a feasibility study into the possibility of acquiring either a DIPR (which could not be used for research) or a new research reactor. The latter is being referred to as a multipurpose reactor (MPR) as, like Safari-1, it would be used both for research and to manufacture radioisotopes for commercial customers.

Rosatom and its predecessor agencies have built more than 100 research reactors in Russia, of which 49 are still in operation. These account for some 20% of all research reactors operating worldwide today.

The Rosatom subsidiary responsible for the design of research reactors the Research and Development Institute of Power Engineering: JSC Nikiet. In addition to experience with fission research reactors, Nikiet has been and is involved in nuclear fusion energy research and development programmes and is today involved in the ITER project.

Nikiet can offer several different designs of fission research reactor, depending on South Africa’s requirements. Such facilities designed by the company are used for fundamental and applied research, radioisotope production, materials testing and education.

While Nikiet would, if selected, provide the design for the reactor, the balance of the plant would be the responsibility of another Rosatom subsidiary Atomenergoproekt Project management and implementation would be the responsibility of Nukem Technologies, a German-based wholly owned subsidiary of JSC Atomstroyexport.

Necsa subsidiary NTP Radioisotopes (NTP) currently uses Safari-1 to produce radioisotopes for medical and other purposes, including in industry and mining. It supplies customers in 50 countries on five continents.

The Safari-1 reactor has an extensive ageing management programme, which aims to extend the lifetime of the reactor to at least 2030. This programme is fully funded by NTP from its commercial isotope sales.

Necsa and Rosatom recently signed a memorandum of understanding. This lays the foundation for the development of joint business projects in, for example, the production and marketing of radioisotopes, the manufacture of nuclear fuel and the fabrication of power equipment. It also opens the way for future cooperation in other, mutually agreed, areas.

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