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NEWDI to manage radioactive waste in SA

NEWDI to manage radioactive waste in SA

Apr 9, 2014

The National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute (NRWDI) – the agency responsible for the management and disposal of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants – was formally launched by the Minister of Energy, Mr Dikobe Ben Martins, at the Department of Energy in Pretoria earlier this month, following its promulgation by Parliament on 9 January 2009, in terms of the National Radioactive Waste Disposal Act, Act No 53 of 2008.

The launch is the culmination of over a decade of careful planning and consultation activities by government with the public, stakeholders and interested parties. The Institute is charged with the responsibility of managing radioactive waste disposal on a national basis.

According to a statement issued by the Department of Energy, the safe management and disposal of low-level, intermediate-level, and high-level radioactive wastes, which are generated through the operation of nuclear power plants such as Koeberg to produce electricity, is a paramount activity of the nations of the world that use nuclear energy on a commercial scale for this purpose. These wastes are also generated in other industrial activities such as in the production of radioisotopes and radiopharmaceuticals for medical applications and research purposes, as is done at the SAFARI-1 research reactor at Pelindaba.

In addition, the Institute will also be responsible for the management and disposal of radioactive wastes and materials that emanate from the use of ionizing radiation at medical facilities such as hospitals and clinics, from industrial activities such as mining, non-destructive testing (NDT), well-logging, agriculture, as well as from any other entity which has to dispose of radioactive waste.

One of the major activities that the Institute is charged with in terms of legislation is to plan, design, construct, operate, manage and monitor any new radioactive waste disposal facilities. This is an important step forward for the country, in view of the fact that the Institute may now formally engage in making concrete plans for the management, interim storage, and disposal of all the high level wastes that are currently temporarily stored at facilities at Koeberg and Pelindaba. At present, all low-level and intermediate-level wastes are disposed of at the Vaalputs National Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility in the Northern Cape, which will henceforth be operated by the Institute.

The launch is a watershed in the history of the management of radioactive wastes in South Africa, and a step in the right direction at the international level, in view of the fact that although intensive on-going research and development has been conducted by many countries over the years, no country has as yet however developed and licensed a high-level radioactive waste deep disposal facility. This means that South Africa will henceforth even more vigorously continue to be at the cutting edge of the state-of-the-art international activities to research and develop such a facility, and will collaborate with leading entities worldwide in this effort.

The Institute is governed by a Board of Directors, approved by Cabinet on 4 December 2013, and which was subsequently appointed by the Minister in January 2014. The Inaugural Board members of the Institute are Prof Gordon Sibiya (Chairperson), Ms Nolwazi Cobbinah, Mr Justin Daniel, Ms Queen Gopo, Mr Clive Kneale, Mr Eric MacDonald, Mr Mathew Mathebe, and Dr Margaret Mkhosi, and are appointed for a period of three years.

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