Ousted South African nuclear executives head to court

2018 04 24 20 24 4264 Isotope 400

South Africa's Pretoria High Court is scheduled next week to hear from three former board members of South African Nuclear Energy (NECSA) who are appealing their suspensions over allegations of mismanagement.

According to a January 10 report by Moneyweb, South Africa's energy minister, Jeff Radebe, suspended NECSA chairman Kelvin Kemm, CEO Phumzile Tshelane, and audit and risk director Pamela Bosman last November on the grounds of "defiance and ineptitude." Radebe also accused the ousted board members of unauthorized foreign travel, providing false information to the media, and the "unlawful" signing of a memorandum of understanding with Russia's state-owned nuclear agency, Rosatom, to collaborate on the expansion of oncology centers in Africa.

NECSA's entire board also was blamed for the yearlong delay in resuming isotope production at the Safari-1 nuclear research reactor in Pelindaba, which is operated by NECSA subsidiary NTP Radioisotopes. The facility is one of the few worldwide suppliers of molybdenum-99, the precursor to technetium-99m. The reactor finally received government approval in November 2018 to restart manufacturing after safety issues forced it to shut down 12 months earlier.

The suspended individuals are asking the court to reverse their dismissals, alleging that their ouster was prompted by "sinister motives" and their assertion that NECSA planned to sell NTP Radioisotopes to a U.S. company.

Last month, NTP Radioisotopes denied media reports that it planned to secretly privatize the company and sell its assets to U.S.-based radiopharmaceutical firm Lantheus Medical Imaging. A Lantheus spokesperson declined to comment to AuntMinnie.com about the NTP statement, adding that it is not the company's policy to discuss speculation regarding the company's merger and acquisition strategy.

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