Radiation Applications

South Africa / Necsa Launches Tender To Replace Ageing Safari-1 Research Reactor

By David Dalton
10 February 2022

Facility used to produce crucial medical radioisotopes
Necsa Launches Tender To Replace Ageing Safari-1 Research Reactor
The Safari-1 research reactor is at the Necsa site in Pelindaba, west of Pretoria. Courtesy Necsa.
State-owned South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) has launched a tender to replace its ageing nuclear research reactor, Safari-1, and help maintain its position as a major producer of the radioisotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) used in medical diagnostic imaging.

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy said in a statement it supported the release of the RFI. The department noted that the project was approved by the Cabinet last September.

The 20 MW (thermal) Safari-1 at Pelindaba, west of Pretoria, has been in operation since 1965 and is scheduled to retire in 2030.

Necsa subsidiary NTP Radioisotopes uses the facility to produce medical radioisotopes. It is one of the four leading producers of radioisotopes in the world.

According to Necsa, the radioisotopes are used in millions of diagnostic tests annually for cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. The reactor also provides support for scientific research, development and innovation in medicine, agriculture, palaeontology and bioscience.

The plant 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, Necsa’s group chief executive said in a statement.

NTP says it is a top four global supplier of medical radioisotopes to the US, Japan and countries in Europe and the Middle East, Necsa said.

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