Leon Louw, executive director at the Free Market Foundation, said the nuclear industry has been "catastrophic" and "counter-productive" at selling itself.
"Almost everything that comes from nuclear engineers and physicists is bad for nuclear," he said. "They say the wrong thing all the time."
Louw said the nuclear industry should start getting its act together and start marketing itself boldly as the "safest, most environmentally friendly and, with realistic standards, the cheapest form of bulk energy supplier for baseload power."
Andrew Kenny, an independent energy analyst, told delegates that nuclear is "regarded with suspicion, hostility and fear by many people around the world."
"The main fault in both instances lies with appallingly bad public relations from the nuclear power industry," he said.
Russia's state-owned nuclear energy company, Rosatom, conceded in September that poor public relations in 2014 resulted in a perception that it had struck a done deal with South Africa to provide 9,600 MW of nuclear energy by 2030. Officially, that is not the case, although critics will argue that President Jacob Zuma's "secret visit" to Russia shortly before the intergovernmental agreement was signed should ring alarm bells.
Russia is not the only country in the running to win South Africa's Nuclear Build Programme, as France, South Korea, China and the US have since signed similar agreements with South Africa, a prerequisite before the vendor process, which is expected to be complete on March 31 2016.
Rosatom, the platinum sponsor of the supply chain conference taking place in Cape Town, has brought 100 nuclear experts from across globe to help develop solutions for South Africa's challenges and highlight key business development opportunities for companies.