NWU signs MoU to pave way for a nuclear future

Pertunia Thulo -- Thu, 03/17/2016 - 10:38

NWU signs MoU to pave way for a nuclear future

The North-West University (NWU) have signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation, Rosatom, for the development of professional and short-term education programmes.

During Rosatom’s Nuclear Education Day, held at the Sandton Library, students and professors of the largest South African universities had a unique opportunity to learn about international opportunities offered not only by Rosatom, but also by the new nuclear academia association San Nest.

During the event, Yury Seleznev, rector of Rosatom, and Prof Frikkie van Niekerk, executive director for research, innovation and technology at the NWU, signed this groundbreaking memorandum that not only paves the way for more nuclear experts in South Africa, but also gives stronger direction to the country’s accumulating energy needs through its education programmes.

The NWU’s School of Nuclear Engineering specialises in reactor engineering and focuses on neutronics and thermal fluid systems. This is done through the implementation of systems, new techniques or new methods like creative design, modelling and experimentation, optimised materials selection and characterisation of non-radiated materials and creative design.

The South African Department of Science and Technology, through the National Research Foundation, established and recently renewed the prestigious South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chair in Nuclear Engineering at the North-West University for a third period, 2011 to 2015. The research focus of the Chair is on the modelling and simulation of reactors and thermal fluid systems applied to the nuclear power industry. This includes the development of detailed neutron transport, computational fluid dynamics and integrated plantwide simulation models of nuclear reactors and their associated components and systems for power plants and process heat applications. These models are applied in the analysis, design and optimisation of conventional pressurised water reactors such as Koeberg, as well as for advanced Generation IV reactor systems including high-temperature gas-cooled reactors and super-critical water reactors.

The Chair at NWU is unique in South Africa in terms of nuclear engineering research and has established international research partnerships like the recently signed Memorandum of Cooperation with Rosatom. The School also has close relationships with groups in Europe, the USA and Korea as well as locally with Eskom and Necsa. The Chair provides several bursaries each year for postgraduate study and welcomes prospective students and partners who share its vision for a low-carbon energy future in South Africa.

Rosatom employs 262 000 people and incorporates more than 400 enterprises and scientific institutions, including all Russian civil nuclear companies, research organisations and the world’s only nuclear-propelled icebreaker fleet. Rosatom is the only company in the world able to offer the complete nuclear power cycle, which ranges from nuclear fuel supply to nuclear power plant construction and operation, and from nuclear medicine to reprocessing of spent fuel, as well as technologies for the safe storage of nuclear waste and finally the decommissioning of nuclear power plants.

During the ceremony of signing the memorandum of cooperation, Seleznev emphasised that “our cooperation with the NWU, in the sphere of research and supplementary education, is aimed at improving the professionalism and competence of nuclear industry employees in South Africa and Russia. Continuous improvement of staff will enable South Africa to ensure sustainable development and competitiveness on the global nuclear technology market.”

Prof Van Niekerk said the NWU is known as the South African nuclear university and have been bringing up future nuclear physicists and engineers over the past 40 years. “I hope our cooperation will help several countries to strengthen scientific relations for generations ahead.”

Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Prof. LJ Grobler, added that the signing of the memorandum affirmed the NWU’s position as university leader in the nuclear space. “The agreement will open more opportunities to develop necessarily human skills and resources that will be needed for the South African nuclear programme.”

Rosatom also launched their Nuclear essay competition for 2016. The national students' competition “Meeting the Needs for Energy and South African Nuclear Power Industry Development” was first held in South Africa in 2015. It was organized by Rosatom Africa and the Faculty of Engineering of the North-West University. The competition took place from January to May 2015. The first prize winner was Ebhard Nilsen, a student from the North-West University. The jury also made a special mention to Joe-Nimique Cilliers, a PhD student in Nuclear Engineering of the NWU for outstanding work.