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07. September 2015

STATEMENT DELIVERED BY AMBASSADOR TEBOGO SEOKOLO, GOVERNOR/RESIDENT REPRESENTATIVE OF SOUTH AFRICA, IAEA BOARD OF GOVERNORS, 7-11 SEPTEMBER 2015

AGENDA ITEM 3: MEASURES TO STRENGTHEN INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN NUCLEAR, RADIATION, TRANSPORT AND WASTE SAFETY

Madame Chairperson,

South Africa thanks the Director General for his opening remarks and documents GOV/2015/40-GC(59)/6 and GOV/INF2015/13-GC(59)/INF/5. Similarly we convey our appreciation to the Secretariat for the technical briefing on this agenda item.

My delegation fully aligns itself with the statement delivered by the Permanent Representative of Chile on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. In addition we wish to present the following remarks in our national capacity.

Madame Chairperson,

As many countries develop and expand their nuclear power programmes in order to respond to the energy security challenges, the issue of nuclear safety and the role of the Agency have become even more important.

The Fukushima Daiichi accident is still deeply edged in the minds of many people and has become a common reference point for those who doubtful of the option of nuclear power as part of the viable energy mix. Thus concerns about nuclear safety are part of the national conversation in many countries including in South Africa especially when the issue of the development and or expansion of nuclear build programme is considered.

That is why we welcome the release of the Fukushima Daiichi accident report because it will assist in putting to rest some of the concerns raised about nuclear safety. As previously indicated in the Board we have expressed our appreciation for the opportunity granted to our experts for participating in the various expert groups that investigated this incident.

We welcome the DGs report on Progress in the implementation of the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety. This report, being the fourth and final is particularly significant because it highlights key areas and actions undertaken by the Agency and Member States during the period under review to enhance nuclear safety. I am pleased to announce that South Africa has participated actively in most of these activities and allow me to share the following highlights:

Safety Assessment of Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs)

As South Africa has reported to the Board in the past, in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, we undertook a comprehensive assessment of our nuclear power station in Koeberg in order to verify its design, operation, and emergency response. The assessment revealed no major shortcomings in the safety of our facility. However a National Plan of Action was developed in order to make the facility even more robust against extreme external events. Steady progress has been made in implementing the Action Plan, including the process towards the procurement of portable equipment. In addition, modifications have been undertaken to ensure reliable power and water supply connection points in the event of extreme external events.

Agency Peer Reviews

My delegation notes the increasing number of requests for the Agency peer review services from Members States, underscoring Member States appreciation of their value.

As previously indicated, as part of our government’s decision to expand the nuclear build programme South Africa was the first country to host the IAEA Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission in 2013, which assessed the country’s infrastructure as it relates to readiness to start purchasing, constructing, and operating nuclear power plants; known as Phase I, II, III respectively. The key findings of this review have been communicated to the South African public and are being implemented as necessary.

As part of strengthening our emergency preparedness and response capabilities and arrangements for nuclear and radiological accidents against the relevant IAEA safety standards, in February 2014, South Africa hosted an Emergency Preparedness Review (EPREV) Mission. Accordingly, the Mission resulted in a number of recommendations and suggestions, and identified good practices. We are currently in the process of addressing the findings of the EPREV.

Agency Safety Standards

With regard to the Agency’s safety standards, my delegation wishes to commend the Secretariat’s efforts to review the relevant safety requirements to take account of the lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident as approved by the Board in March 2015. South Africa’s national nuclear regulator has also embarked on a process to revise it’s safety standards and regulatory practices. The proposed revised regulations draw from these lessons and take account of extreme external events in the design of our facilities and also accident and emergency preparedness.

In addition, South Africa has been active in the Agency’s efforts on nuclear safety. During this reporting period, we participated in the work of four IAEA safety committees, namely the Nuclear Safety Standards Committee, the Radiation Safety Standards Committee, the Waste Safety Standards Committee, and the Transport Safety Standards Committee, of which the Head of National Nuclear Regulator is the Chair.

Emergency Preparedness and Response

We commend the activities undertaken by the Agency to support Member States emergency preparedness and response capacity. In South Africa emergency planning is receiving attention by national operating organisations and our national regulator insists on emergency exercises being held regularly. In this regard, our national regulator is finalising plans to equip its own regulatory emergency response centre. This includes the placement of online radiation monitors around nuclear installations. Our regulator has also established an independent environmental monitoring laboratory with the capacity to perform gamma, beta, alpha and gross alpha analysis for all matrices.

Madame Chairperson,

My delegation also wishes to thank the Secretariat for the activities undertaken during the period under review to improve nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety. As indicated in the report, part of the strategy is to encourage the establishment of regional safety forums and networks. We are particularly pleased to note that the Transport Safety Standards Committee, under leadership of the Head of our National Nuclear Regulator has facilitated the creation of regional transport networks in Africa, the Mediterranean, Asia, the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean and the Americas. Although much work has been done in all regional networks, it is understood that the African regional network is currently the most advanced.

At national level, South Africa hosted a workshop on the Transport of Sealed Radioactive Sources in October 2014. Further, in July this year South Africa hosted the first African Regional Network Training Course on the IAEA Transport Regulations, which was attended by 30 delegates from 18 African countries. The Course was in fact over-subscribed to the extent that a second Course is scheduled for November 2015.

We also hosted the Regional Training Workshop on Practical Intervention Techniques to Reduce Public Doses at Uranium Mining and Milling Legacy Sites in June 2015.

Madame Chairperson

As we are all aware, this year we hosted the 5th Review Meeting of States Parties of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. Similarly, the Diplomatic Conference to consider the proposed Swiss amendment of the Convention on Nuclear Safety was also held, which adopted the Vienna Declaration on Nuclear Safety. In our view, these two events are significant and will no doubt go a long way in enhancing global nuclear safety. We look forward to a meeting of nuclear regulators convened by Argentina in November this year in order to consider ways and means of giving impetus to the implementation of the Vienna Declaration.

Madame Chairperson,

In conclusion, I wish to underscore that as South Africa embarks on our nuclear build programme, nuclear safety will remain at the centre of our efforts. Capacity building will be key in this regard. It for this reason that South Africa has taken the decision to establish a Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Safety. The Centre will be the first applied research and training facility dedicated to developing essential skills demanded by South Africa’s nuclear sector, beyond the established academic institutions. It will house a fit for purpose training facilities, a selection of state-of-the-art irradiation and analysis equipment for researchers and students to use, including analytical and inspection laboratories, computer modelling facilities. Most importantly, the combination of facilities and diverse expertise, which will be available through a network of collaborations with local and international institutions, will complement and significantly expand the nuclear research and education capability of South Africa’s academic institutions by providing universities the opportunity to enrich the scope and value of their research programmes.

With these remarks, my delegation takes note of the two reports submitted under this agenda item.

I thank you.

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