Mar 2019 1st Edition

Ensuring radiation safety in the nuclear industry

Written by: More Matshediso

Helping to address South Africa’s energy challenges is the ultimate aim of a nuclear physicist.

Nuclear science and technology is an industry with many opportunities that have the potential to address South Africa’s economic and energy problems.

This is according to Gaopalelwe Santswere, who is a nuclear physicist at the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation SOC Ltd (Necsa).

Necsa houses the country’s only nuclear research reactor, which is by far Africa’s largest producer of a range of medical isotopes that are used for diagnostic purposes and the therapeutic treatment of cancer.

Santswere's job is to ensure that the research reactor operates within the licence conditions as required by the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR).

 “As a nuclear physicist, I analyse the safety of the research reactor in detail by using calculations to ensure that the operations of the facility do not result in exposing workers and the public to the amount of radiation that could be harmful,” he explained.

After doing his calculations, he has to produce safety reports which are continuously submitted to the NNR.

He has a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Physics and did his post-graduate studies in nuclear science. Today, he has over 10 years’ work experience and is currently a PhD candidate at the North West University.

“I want to be a corporate strategist and contribute meaningfully to the economy of my country by helping to resolve the energy challenges that we are facing,” he said.

He advises young people to consider taking up careers in the nuclear science industry because there are  many opportunities.

Nuclear science is found in a variety of career fields, such as healthcare, research, energy and nuclear power. The most prominent careers in this field include nuclear engineer, nuclear physicist, and nuclear medicine technologist.

Those who are interested in these type of careers will have to choose mathematics and physical science as main subjects in high school and must study nuclear science and technology-related courses at university level.   

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