Forty-one participants from 14 African countries are meeting this week in Pretoria, South Africa at the School of Nuclear Energy Management (NEM) to learn more about every aspect of nuclear power production, from energy planning and nuclear law to safety, security and radioactive waste management. The two-week training course – the third of its kind in Africa – opened on 20 June, with the support of IAEA experts, guest lecturers and contributors from the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA), the Department of Mineral Resources (DMRE) and the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR).
“As the third NEM School hosted in Africa, the School has continued to grow in stature and in attendance,” said Katse Maphoto, Deputy Director General of Nuclear Energy Regulation at the DMRE. “This is testament to the fact that Africa remains a key destination for the expansion of nuclear applications and for training in nuclear technologies.”
Governments across Africa are devising development policies to reliably meet the growing energy demands of their populations, while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions and mitigating the effects of climate change. For these African countries and other industrializing nations in need of clean and cost-effective energy, nuclear is an increasingly attractive option.
“The NEM School will help to ensure that Africa has capable leaders in the nuclear sphere,” said NECSA Group CEO Loyiso Tyabashe. “These are leaders who will run successful nuclear power programmes and who will advocate for the role of nuclear technology in their national energy mixes.”
Implemented in both national and regional formats, the IAEA’s Schools of Nuclear Energy Management leverage the Agency’s international perspective and technical expertise to deliver targeted training across all dimensions of nuclear power generation. Graduates are expected to bolster the nuclear workforce of their respective countries with new technical and managerial skills.
This year’s School in South Africa benefitted from support, coordination and input from South Africa’s National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute (NRWDI), North West University and from ESKOM, the country’s electricity public utility and the largest producer of electricity in Africa.
The IAEA offers a suite of support services related to nuclear power production, helping countries with existing power programmes to sustain and expand the skills of their nuclear workforce, and providing expert guidance to newcomer countries to assess and plan for the construction of their first reactors.
“The School is among the key support services offered to Member States by the IAEA,” said Senior IAEA Knowledge Management Specialist Ian Gordon, who also serves as the Scientific Secretary of the School. “The students are very well-qualified and diligent and their passion for the subject really shows through.”
Capacity building is a critical component of IAEA technical cooperation projects, implemented through an intergovernmental Agreement – the AFRA Agreement – for the sustainable operation of nuclear power programmes. Lerato Makgae, National Liaison Officer of South Africa to the IAEA, described how the skills developed through the School are transferable to sectors beyond power production. “The potential of nuclear science in Africa becomes even more apparent when the scope of development is widened to include human capital-particularly in fields such as energy, healthcare, food security and agriculture, which are priorities in the region,” she said.
The NEM School focuses on the managerial and technical competencies that are required to support and sustain national nuclear energy strategies. It targets young professionals in countries which plan to develop, or are in the process of embarking on, a nuclear power programme. Participants must first complete an online course on the IAEA’s Cyber Learning Platform for Network Education and Training (CLP4Net) platform before taking part in the school in person.
Charting Africa’s Energy Future with Integrated Work Plans
Participants at the NEM include staff from regulatory bodies in Kenya which – like other countries in the region, including Nigeria – has announced their intentions to pursue nuclear power to meet growing national energy demand. Both Kenya and Nigeria are following the IAEA’s Milestones Approach, and are working with the IAEA within the framework of Integrated Work Plans (IWPs).
“Nigeria is currently in Phase 2 of the Milestones process. Having completed our site selection, we are now in the process of carrying out feasibility studies on the three power production technologies being considered,” said Professor Abdullahi Mati, Director of Nuclear Power Plant Development at the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission.
Kenya is also in the second phase of the Milestones Approach and has correspondingly established its national nuclear regulator; identified preferred and alternate plant sites, and is presently focussing on the development of its nuclear workforce by participating in Nuclear Energy Management Schools and other IAEA-organized training events.
“Kenya is pursuing nuclear power to ensure energy security and energy diversity well into the future,” explained Chesire Edwin, Kenya’s National Liaison Officer (NLO), who helped to nominate and register three Kenyan participants for the ongoing NEM School.
“The role of nuclear power in climate change is at the top of our agenda and it’s expected that Kenya’s nuclear power programme will be a game-changer in achieving our development priorities.”