ISTC and the Zambian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Agree to jointly Enhance Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards in SADC Countries

The EU-funded, ISTC-implemented projects on nuclear safety and security in Africa fit the current government priorities, particularly the efforts to turn Zambia into a regional hub for nuclear energy. Zambia is willing to host in 2019 at least one big public awareness event under the two EU-funded projects, in which the country actively participates, namely Support to the CBRN Center of Excellence of Central and Eastern African states in nuclear security (Project 60) and Project MC 5.01/15B Support to Southern African States in nuclear safety and safeguards. These were the key takeaways from the recent meeting that took place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Zambia between Mr. Sylvester Mundanda, Director, Development Cooperation and International Organizations and ISTC’s Senior Programme Manager and Diplomatic Advisor Kamen Velichkov. They met to discuss the progress in the implementation of the two EU-funded projects and to assess the results of the conference on Enhancing Africa’s Capacity in Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards in SADC Countries (29-31 August 2018, Lusaka). In addition, the Zambian side pledged willingness to make known the results of the conference deliberations to the members of the SADC Ministerial Committee of the Organ (MCO) on Politics, Defence and Security, presided by Zambia since August 2018.

Kamen Velichkov debriefed the Zambian partner about the mission and current priorities of ISTC, and the transformation of the organization through its geographic and thematic expansion. He thanked the Zambian government for the country’s active participation in the ISTC-implemented projects on nuclear safety and security. Director Mundanda noted that following the draughts Zambia experienced recently, the government examines opportunities to diversify the energy mix heavily dependent on hydropower now. Nuclear is also in consideration, as illustrated by the decision for the creation of the Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology. Against this background, the assistance Zambia gets through the EU-funded, ISTC-implemented projects is timely and very much welcome. Currently, the Zambian Parliament considers amendments, pertaining to the nuclear safety and security. Raising public awareness about the importance of nuclear safety and safeguards acquires additional urgency and importance.

The two interlocutors discussed the regional dimensions of Project MC 5.01/15B that targets four countries – Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Namibia, while seeking to engage all SADC member states by offering them to join a web-based communication system that will help monitor and account for the transportation of Uranium ore in Southern Africa. The SADC dimension becomes even more important as the project endeavours to institutionalize the currently informal network of the national nuclear regulators of the SADC member countries. The idea is to help them emancipate as a formal group like other SADC working/thematic groups. ​​

Kamen Velichkov congratulated the Zambian MFA on assuming the rotating Chairmanship of the SADC Ministerial Committee of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation. In this position Zambia could flag the idea about a SADC Protocol on nuclear and radiation safety aiming to promote harmonization and standardization of the nuclear regulatory infrastructures in the region. Geographically Zambia is at a crossroads. EU has supported the rehabilitation and upgrading of backbone road infrastructure in Zambia, to enable economic development along main transport corridors crossing the country. Convoys carrying uranium oxide use these roads, and the safety of such deliveries is a component of the road safety. From this perspective, the web-based system to be established under Project MC 5.01/15B will be a valuable tool for Zambia and its neighbours to trace and control nuclear material shipments.

Director Mundanda welcomed the information about the forthcoming activities in Zambia under Project – 60: a specialised training in Lusaka and a visit by European experts to the nuclear waste management site in the North of the country. The role of civil society came under scrutiny with regard to the challenging task of increasing the level of nuclear safety culture. In this context, the two interlocutors noted with satisfaction the establishment of the Zambian chapter of the African Young Generation in Nuclear, a continental organization of young professionals that adopted a statement in support of greater nuclear safety, security and safeguards in the SADC countries.

The meeting at the MFA was attended by Mr. Lubasi Mungandi, Assistant Director, Regional Cooperation, and Mr. Mukanda, Protocol Division, as well as by the CBRN National Focal Point Mr. Noble Mulenga and his predecessor Mr. Happy Muntanga, Director, Centre for Peace and Development Strategies, Livingstone. All meeting participants agreed that the cooperation between ISTC and the relevant Zambian counterparts in the ISTC-implemented EU-funded projects should continue in a more intensive form in the future.