Uranium has to be chemically processed, which sounds simple but is incredibly complex. There are two types of uranium called isotopes, one is U-235 and the other is U-238. The SA Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) says nuclear medicine production should resume shortly.
Group chief executive Phumzile Tshelane said yesterday that the closure of Necsa’s subsidiary, NTP Radioisotopes, which produces medical isotopes used in diagnostic imaging and treatment, did not affect the company’s finances as the target revenue of over R1 billion was met in 2017.
NTP was shut down in November last year following reported safety procedure violations. However, Tshelane said the subsidiary resumed medical production between February and May when the facility underwent a revamp.
“We expect that within two weeks we should be producing (again),” Tshelane said.
Necsa chairperson Dr Kelvin Kemm said nuclear medicine in general was an incredibly exciting development.
Kemm said cancer patients who had been given a month to live were now running around after treatment with nuclear medicine.
“The revamp of the NTP operation is looking at entire future organisation,” Kemm said. “We need medical authorities to be in a position to use our medicines to treat patients.”
In July, President Cyril Ramaphosa appeared to put a final nail in the nuclear power debate, arguing that South Africa could not afford the nuclear build programme.
But Tshelane said nuclear could go a long way to addressing the high levels of unemployment in the country as about 600 people would be needed to run a 1 000MW reactor.