AFCONE LAUNCHES AMBITIOUS FIVE-YEAR PROGRAM TO IMPROVE NUCLEAR SAFEGUARDS IN AFRICA

11 May 2023

The African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) is proud to announce the launch of its ambitious five-year programme, “Uplifting Nuclear Safeguards in Africa,” at the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa), Pretoria, from May 8-11, 2023. The programme aims to strengthen nuclear material control measures in Africa with the expert support of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland (STUK) and will be funded by the European Union and the Republic of Finland.

“The programme we have just launched is a major opportunity to develop nuclear safeguards in Africa. African states are in different stages when it comes to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and many need to build capacity to maintain state systems of accounting for and control of nuclear materials, and to effectively implement IAEA safeguards,” said Enobot Agboraw, Executive Secretary of the AFCONE.

The Government of South Africa, represented by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and Necsa, is the designated Regional Collaborating Centre (RCC) for the English-speaking countries to support AFCONE’s Safeguards programme. The functions of the Regional Collaborating Centre include the provision of analytical services, conducting of nuclear research, standardisation of technology, support and organisation of conferences and training activities. This initiative is aimed at ensuring that the African continent, which is rich in natural resources, utilises nuclear energy for its socioeconomic development, thereby becoming self-sufficient in the field of nuclear energy.

“Necsa brings on board extensive knowledge and expertise on nuclear safeguards. It is honoured to host a programme of this nature. As a country we have a strong commitment towards non-proliferation as well as our ability to utilise nuclear energy and technology to contribute to our socio-economic development. The Pelindaba Treaty was signed at our site and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) once again confirmed that South Africa’s nuclear facilities and materials remain in peaceful use in 2022. There are many lessons and much knowledge on nuclear safeguards in the continent and globally that the delegates will receive exposure to,” remarked Necsa GCEO, Mr Loyiso Tyabashe.

“For STUK, this is the beginning of an exciting journey as we have not previously worked in Africa on this scale,” commented Director General Petteri Tiippana from STUK. “However, we are experienced in regulatory control of nuclear materials and in providing expert support in non-proliferation matters, as Finland was the first country in the world to bring a CSA into force, over 50 years ago.  Because we have the know-how, we have a duty to share knowledge. This is our way of contributing to safety globally.”

Safeguards are a set of technical measures applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to nuclear facilities and material. Through these technical measures, the IAEA seeks to independently verify a state’s legal obligation to ensure that nuclear facilities are not misused, and nuclear material is not diverted from peaceful purposes. Currently, 47 African states have signed a comprehensive safeguards agreement (CSA) with the IAEA. Concluding a CSA with the IAEA is a legal requirement under the Pelindaba Treaty that established the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone.

The IAEA safeguards system is a fundamental part of the international nuclear non- proliferation regime. Nuclear safeguards are the key prerequisite for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Therefore, the ambition to benefit from the atom in energy production or in other fields, such as healthcare, must first be demonstrated through a national commitment to develop effective regulatory controls over nuclear materials – that is, nuclear safeguards. In practice, this task is usually assigned to a team of dedicated experts in the national regulatory organization, who keep nuclear material accountancy and participate in and facilitate IAEA safeguards inspections.

The main goal of AFCONE’s safeguards programme is to provide support for the development of effective nuclear safeguards and effective systems of accountancy along with control of

nuclear materials as key elements of nuclear non-proliferation in Africa. At the same time, AFCONE will receive peer-support from STUK to ramp up its operations as a regional knowledge-hub and coordinator for safeguards activities. The Pelindaba Treaty came into force in 2009, and AFCONE is the inter-governmental organization set-up to ensure the implementation of the Treaty in Africa, including regional support and coordination of nuclear safeguards.

“In Africa, there is real momentum for developing safeguards. There is commitment at national levels, there is the regional support structure – AFCONE – and now we can also benefit from Finland’s top-of-the-line safeguards expertise. I see that in five years we can substantially improve regulatory control for nuclear materials in many African countries and build sustainable regional structures,” Agboraw concluded.

The inaugural programme runs from 8 to 11 May 2023 and is being attended by 40 delegates from Algeria, Botswana, DR Congo, Malawi, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.

For more information, please contact Azza Abdelmutti Mohamed of AFCONE on:

 

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