Shut down of radioisotope subsidiary is a crisis for nuclear corporation and for the country

The safety compliance failures at NTP Radioisotopes, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the State-owned South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa), has created a crisis within the parastatal and for the country’s nuclear medicine community and its patients. Necsa shut down operations at NTP in late November due to non-compliance with safety protocols at the radioisotope producer, a step with which the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) concurred. “Necsa, as the [nuclear] licence holder, is the one obligated to uphold the highest safety standards. NTP is a beneficiary of this,” Necsa CEO Phumzile Tshelane told “Engineering News Online”. “This means that there is a crisis within Necsa due to the failure of NTP to uphold safety standards. This is damaging the image of Necsa within the global nuclear community. It is also a crisis in the supply of medical radioisotopes and it is thus a crisis for the country’s nuclear medicine community and its patients.” With NTP not producing for more than two months now, the medical radioisotopes being used in the country are being sourced from abroad, arranged by Necsa. But there is still a gap between the supply and the demand. “On average, there has been a 50% reduction in the [nuclear medicine] material available in South Africa,” he reported.