Koeberg puts youth on clear path

A few of the chosen participants for the Koeberg Nuclear Operating Pipeline programme.

One hundred young people have been chosen to join an intensive training programme at Koeberg that will see them set on a career path to run the country’s nuclear reactors.

The young training candidates, most of whom are artisans or have a tertiary qualification, danced and sang at a function at the Koeberg nuclear power plant on Thursday June 9 to celebrate the launch of the Koeberg nuclear operator pipeline project and their inclusion in it.

The project will span five years, during which time the participants will train to become internationally qualified nuclear operators, ensuring that the country has the skills capacity to meet its future nuclear needs.

At the function, Public Enterprises Minister Lynn Brown urged the trainees to seize the opportunity and use it to lift themselves out of poverty.

With the launch coming in the build-up to Youth Day on June 16, Ms Brown said, “This iconic day, June 16, is a day celebrated in order to recognise the role of youth in the liberation of SA from the apartheid regime. Whilst we commemorate this milestone, we also celebrate the power of youth to change their own destiny. I have no doubt that with this nuclear programme, the participants are doing exactly that.”

Trainee Faith Maluleka said being selected felt surreal, and she couldn’t believe the opportunity she had been given.

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“It’s hard to believe we’re finally here. We were selected out of millions out there. If you are in Egypt, you come here to learn about nuclear; here we are, at no cost to ourselves.”

“Fifty years later, and we, as young people, benefit greatly because of sacrifices that were made for us. We struggle greatly because of poverty and unemployment in our day, but this opportunity gives us a chance to break the chain of poverty,” said Ms Maluleka.

Koeberg power station manager Riedewaan Bakardien said the chosen hundred would learn specialised skills focusing on plant operation.

He said the pipeline project was important to keep feeding people with highly technical skills, which took a long time to acquire, into the industry. “It takes years to get to the operator qualification. It’s quite tough, and this is why the pipeline comes in.

“There is a big demand for plant operators and once they’re qualified, they can be moved into other areas in the nuclear field.”

“The programme is also helping to prepare Koeberg if the Department of Energy (DOE) accepts our application (for two nuclear installation licences to build a nuclear power plant at Duynefontein and in Thyspunt, in the Eastern Cape). But we are looking after the future of Koeberg,” said Mr Bakardien.

Of the 100 candidates, 40 are female and they come from all over South Africa.

Together they will be complete 62 weeks of class work and on-the-job training and learn the theoretical and practical work needed to become plant operators.

“There is a lot riding on your success and your future. The new nuclear build will require additional resources for operations, and the nuclear operator training programme is geared towards ensuring the youth who have aspirations to access a career in nuclear have a chance at achieving their dreams,” said Ms Brown.