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13. September 2021

STATEMENT DELIVERED BY MS MONÉ DYE, ACTING MINISTER PLENIPOTENTIARY, PERMANENT MISSION OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA, AT THE IAEA BOARD OF GOVERNORS, 13 SEPTEMBER 2021, VIENNA, AUSTRIA

AGENDA ITEM 3: NUCLEAR SECURITY

Madam Chair

South Africa aligns itself with the statement delivered by the Chairperson of the Group of 77 and China and we want to make the following additional remarks.

First of all, we thank the Director General and the Secretariat for the preparation of this year’s Nuclear Security Report and the support provided by the Agency to Member States to ensure continued nuclear security at facilities and of nuclear and radiation material despite the limitations brought about by the pandemic. We are especially pleased that the Agency’s efforts towards training, capacity building and education continued with some adjustments and innovative ways.

Madame Chair

Nuclear Security is a very important aspect for the responsible use of nuclear energy, science and technology by Member States.  It is is an obligation that all Member States with nuclear programmes, regardless of size, must take very seriously.   

While the primary responsibility for nuclear security lies with the state, the IAEA has increasingly, upon request, supported Member States in establishing, maintaining and strengthening nuclear security regimes. The Agency’s activities in this important area are guided by General Conference Resolutions and to a lesser extent the high-level outcomes of the International Conferences on Nuclear Security (ICONS). 

Upon reflection South Africa is of the view that the next Nuclear Security Plan should also be an opportunity to pause and review the document, specifically the need and purpose of the Plan, its content, and the process through which it is finalised.

The Nuclear Security Plans, were originally intended among others to be a guide on how the IAEA can support Member States in preventing nuclear and radiological material from falling into the hands of terrorists and how the Agency can support Member States, upon request in enhancing physical security of facilities. Over time the document has become a roadmap for Agency activities in strengthening nuclear security and the implementation of the General Conference resolutions. This, we belief is what must guide the review process to streamline the document aims and objectives.

As the statement of the G77 and China has indicated the process of finalising and agreeing on the NSP is far from ideal. Our view is that the best way of discussing and finalising such an important document like many others in the Agency should be Member State driven. We therefore fully support the Group’s proposal to revise the process in the future with the aim of bringing it more in line with general practices of the organisaiton.  South Africa will support the proposal to ensure that further consultations are led by Member States, perhaps in the format of a Open Ended Working Group as is the case in the finalisation of the programme and budget etc.

Madam Chairperson,

South Africa remains committed to ensuring and maintaining effective nuclear security measures in respect of all nuclear and other radioactive material, including nuclear facilities in our country in accordance with national and international legal obligations. Since we are in the process of expanding our nuclear programme, nuclear security remains a priority for our Government.

However, we should not forget that in order for the global nuclear security system to be truly effective, it needs to be comprehensive. Even if all civilian materials were fully secured to the highest standards, this would only cover an estimated 15% of the weapons-usable material around the world, leaving a critical gap in the nuclear security architecture.  Since a security event using this material or even the weapons will have global consequences, it is not only legitimate but also essential that we collectively address the issue of the security of the nuclear material in military programmes. It is wrong that these materials that are excluded from international safeguards scrutiny and security standards remain outside any global oversight mechanisms.

We reiterate our firm belief that enhanced nuclear security arrangements for nuclear material and facilities in civilian use alone will not eliminate the threat of nuclear terrorism. Therefore, progress towards the full implementation of of our shared goal of a world without nuclear weapons, as reflected in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and now also the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, must be realised. 

We reiterate that, as long as the security of high-risk weaponised nuclear material remain outside international oversight, the threat of nuclear terrorism will remain very high. We believe that the next NSP must consider this reality more substantively than this Plan before us does.

With these remarks, South Africa supports the adoption of the Nuclear Security Plan 2022-2025 as contained in document GOV/2021/34.

I thank you.

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