The National Accelerator Centre (NAC) First decade, 1966 to 1976.
By 1966 six particle accelerators were being used in South Africa for research and training in nuclear physics. By international standards they were all relatively old and small. This situation was discussed at a special meeting during the annual conference of the South African Institute of Physics (SAlP) which took place in Stellenbosch during July that year. The consensus was that the existing accelerators would in the long run not enable local nuclear physicists to conduct internationally competitive research. The nuclear physics community, however realised that it would not be possible to replace all these existing accelerators with modern ones and that they could, at best, hope to obtain one or two viable national facilities to be shared by all users. A study group was elected at the meeting and given the task to examine the local needs as well as international trends in the field of particle accelerators. Each year the study group reported on its progress at the SAlP conference, where a new group was elected for the following year. Council of the SAlP in due course took note of these efforts and granted its support.
During the early 1970s some radiotherapists in the Western Cape led by Prof R (Ross) Sealy, were also exploring the possibility of obtaining a powerful particle accelerator to produce high-energy neutrons and protons for the treatment of cancer patients. These two groups soon realised the potential advantages of cooperation and the concept of a single national accelerator which could be used tor nuclear physics research, cancer therapy and the production of radionuclides was born. The Cape Provincial Administration (CPA), which was responsible for the two large teaching hospitals in. the Western Cape (Groote Schuur and Tygerberg), provided financial support for a detailed feasibility study on condition that, if the study should lead to the establishment of a national accelerator facility outside the Western Cape, the CPA would have to be reimbursed.
Supervised by a Board of Control, in which all interested parties were represented at high level, the Feasibility Study, led by Prof WL (Willie) Rautenbach, was launched in 1973. Several task groups, consisting of experts from the relevant disciplines, explored modern accelerators and their applications in the physical and medical sciences and made recommendations. The final Feasibility Study report, which appeared in 1975, recommended the local design and construction of a 200 MeV separated-sector cyclotron to be operated as a national facility for research. cancer therapy and radionuclide production. This proposal. supported by the SAlP, the CPA and the
Medical Research Council (MRC), was submitted to the Prime Minister‘s Scientific Advisory Council and ultimately to Cabinet with enthusiastic endorsement by Dr SM (Meiring) Naude, then scientific adviser to the Prime Minister.
By the end of 1975 Cabinet approved the project and its siting in the Western Cape. Dr G (Gorra) Heymann was appointed project leader.
De Kock, P.R. and Moraal, H. 2013. Physics in South Africa, p306