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The Steering Committee of EU Project MC5.01/15B welcomes Nuclear Regulators from Southern African States

The first joint meeting of SADC Nuclear Regulators and the Steering Committee of European Union-funded Project MC5.01/15B took place in Pretoria at the end of July. National experts from Malawi, Zambia, Namibia and Tanzania (the project participating countries) and their colleagues from Angola, DR Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Seychelles, the Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and South Africa discussed the safe and secure transportation of Uranium ore across national borders. Questions of nuclear safety, security and safeguards (the triple S approach) toppled the agenda, in addition to discussions about training needs and the elaboration of a web-communication system that will allow Southern African states to monitor the movement of Uranium ore and RN materials across their region. The participants in the meeting considered the scope and timing of upcoming trainings, field exercises and public awareness activities and the potential involvement of all SADC countries in project-related events.  

Mr. Bismark Tyobeka, CEO of the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) of South Africa reiterated the commitment of his institution to assist in the implementation of “this important and pivotal project” and welcomed the EU for its “generosity and sense of duty to secure safe nuclear Africa”. Mr. Jean-Bernard de Milito from the EU Delegation to Pretoria emphasized the role of leadership and interagency coordination in a sector of utmost importance for all citizens; he underlined a potential key outcome of the project – the establishment of a formal network of SADC nuclear regulators and the involvement of SADC Secretariat. Dr. Kamen Velichkov, project manager, ISTC, positioned MC5.01/15B in the perspective of existing international initiatives and of EU thematic instruments, briefed about past and current activities, and highlighted the next milestones in the project implementation. 

Conceived as a pilot project involving four countries, project MC5.01/15B could evolve into a regional platform that serve all SADC member states. Mr. Happy Muntanga, Director, Centre for Peace and Development Strategies, Zambia, reminded how and why the project came into being and the intention that underpinned its connection to SADC Secretariat and the informal Nuclear Regulators Network.

The representatives of the four participating countries spoke about their local context. Mr. Daught Muleya, former Executive Director of the Radiation Protection Authority, presented the internal coordination mechanism and complex transport operational procedures in place that make Zambia with its eight neighboring countries an unique crossing point for transit and transportation of RN materials. Dr. Lazaro S.P. Busalaga, Director General of Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission (TAEC) highlighted the intention of his country to start Uranium mining and the needs of improving the existing regulatory frameworks, equipment and staff capacity. Ms. Victoria Kachimera, Acting Executive Director of the Radiation Protection Authority (RPA) of Malawi spoke as a representative of the country of origin of yellow cake. Leading a newly established national institution, she underlined that Malawi is at the initial stages of drafting special transport regulations and establishing a monitoring system. Mr. Collin O’Brien Namalambo, Directorate of Multilateral Relations & Cooperation, Namibia, informed about the plans of expanding the capacity of the Port of Walvis bay and creating a transport corridor that will require a solid coordination of resources, transport operators and regulators to link the Namibian port to all SADC countries. Namibia, the world’s 6th largest Uranium producer, assumes on 1 August 2018 the chairmanship of SADC.

Heads and representatives of national nuclear regulators from SADC countries expressed their satisfaction to learn more about the MC5.01/15B project and made comments about the possibility to participate in some project activities including joining the web-based system that will monitor the transportation of Uranium ore across national borders.  

The preparation of four national reports (case studies) on the current state of uranium mining and transport and the elaboration of a regional report is a major task and outcome of the project. Dr. Hubert Foy, Director, African Center for Science and International Security, led the discussion on the terms of reference, the main elements to be covered and the principles for disclosure of national sensitive data for the preparation of the reports. He emphasized that the national experts who will be working on the report are being selected through a call for expression of interest opened to experts from all countries.

Project countries also outlined the key topics and main target audiences to be addressed by the training and simulation exercises that will take place in the course of the next 12 to 14 months. Dr. Margaret Mkhosi, Director, Centre for Nuclear Safety and Security, NNR, South Africa, led the discussion that identified the initial needs and intentions of all project countries.

The establishment and functioning of a web-based system that will help monitor in real time the safe transportation of Uranium ore and other RN materials stirred a vivid discussion with the representatives of the software developer and its South African partner. The exchange of views and comments helped fine-tune the requirements for the elaboration of the software product, define the scope and manner of data transmission, as we well as consider the schedule of testing and training of personnel. Several countries expressed their willingness to host the main server or an additional server of the web-based system.

 The first joint meeting of the SADC Nuclear Regulator Networks and the Steering Committee of Project     MC5.01/15B included: sharing lessons from collaborative initiatives in nuclear safety and security between EU member states (Finland and Estonia); an overview of the South African case with the regulation of NORM (naturally occurring radioactive material); and a presentation about the importance of understanding and holistically addressing the questions of safety, security and safeguards in the context of Southern Africa. Mr. Juha Rautjarvi, Chairperson, CBRN Suomi Association, shared insights from engaging stakeholders in Finland and emphasized how SADC countries can benefit from information exchange in nuclear. Mr. Krister Liljegren, Environics, Finland, draw on European experience in radiological emergency response table-top and field exercises. Ms. Daniela Caratas, independent international expert, talked about the implementation of the IAEA international standards in SADC member states. The representatives from the South African host institution - the NNR: Mr. Patle Mohajane, Programme Manager, NORM and Mr. Paul Hinrichsen, Principal Specialist: Transport, highlighted the existing national expertise that South Africa can bring to the project.

A discussion on the upcoming awareness-raising event in Lusaka, Zambia, made the last point of the meeting agenda. On behalf of the host country, Ms. Elsie Monale, Chief Director, Nuclear Non - Proliferation and Radiation Security at the Ministry of Energy, made closing remarks. In appreciation of their contribution to the meeting. Dr. Kamen Velichkov presented tokens of appreciation to four new members of the Project’s Steering Committee.    

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