New Necsa chair Rob Adam. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
New Necsa chair Rob Adam. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

The government has replaced the board of the state-owned South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa), with the utility's former CEO, Rob Adam, taking over as chair.

Adam replaces former chair Kelvin Kemm as head of the organisation, which is tasked with undertaking and promoting research and development in the field of nuclear energy and radiation sciences and technology.  

Necsa is also involved in the production of medical nuclear radioisotopes and associated services, and manages and operates the Vaalputs National Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility in the Northern Cape.

Adam, who was Necsa CEO for six years between 2006 and 2012, said on Thursday after his appointment that although it was still early days, the key issues to be addressed in the corporation were its financial stability and future strategy in the light of the government's policy decision to delay the new nuclear build programme to the mid-2030s.

The new members of the board are Ramatsemela Masango, Aadil Patel, Bishen Singh, Pulane Kingston, Matlhodi Ngwenya, Jabulani Ndlovu and Pulane Molokwane.

The board would also have to appoint an interim CEO as Phumzile Tshelane had been suspended, he said. 

DA energy spokesperson Gwen Ngwenya said in a statement that it appeared Tshelane and Kemm were allegedly removed from their positions by energy minister Jeff Radebe.

"While there have been numerous governance challenges at Necsa, South Africans need to know on what grounds the CEO and chair have been removed from their positions," Ngwenya said.

"Furthermore, we are concerned that their removal might not be based on the valid grounds outlined in sections 17 and 22 of the Nuclear Energy Act (46 of 1999). In particular, the minister needs to answer whether there is a deal with a foreign company involving Necsa/NTP Radioisotopes, from which the minister stands to financially benefit — or from which he has already benefited," Ngwenya said.

Daily Maverick published an independent report earlier in December showing that Radebe had asked the Necsa board to provide reasons it should not be removed.

"It appears that the issues raised by the minister with the Necsa board concern matters of governance, engagements with Russian nuclear interests and possible unauthorised research reactor deals with Russia’s Rosatom, overseas trips by the Necsa chair, unauthorised media releases, articles and/or communications, and apparent conflicts of interest," the article said.