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Topnews, Statements

09. Juni 2022

STATEMENT DELIVERED BY AMBASSADOR RAPULANE MOLEKANE, GOVERNOR/RESIDENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA, AT THE IAEA BOARD OF GOVERNORS, 9 JUNE, VIENNA, AUSTRIA

AGENDA ITEM 10: TRANSFER OF THE NUCLEAR MATERIALS IN THE CONTEXT OF AUKUS AND ITS SAFEGUARDS IN ALL ASPECTS UNDER THE NPT

Mr Chair

We thank the Director General for the update he provided in his introductory statement, and noticed the lack of any new information and clarity despite the fact that there have been numerous rounds of consultation between the Agency and the AUKUS States and we are now more than half-way through the 18 month consultation period announced in September last year.

This is the first time that we are expressing our initial views on a matter among three, all important strategic partners of South Africa on how the nuclear naval propulsion deal will work, specifically on how these partners envisage to protect the safeguards regime.

Firstly, in South Africa’s opinion, informed by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its implementation of more than 50 years, the transfer of nuclear military technology from two nuclear weapon states to a non-nuclear weapon state is an activity, we argue, is against the letter and the spirit of the NPT.  This is based on over 50 years of legal practice, which we believe further determined that the exclusion of nuclear material and facilities from IAEA verification is only applicable to the nuclear weapon states, and is not extended to non-nuclear weapon states like Australia.

Therefore, if an exception is made now, or the implementation of the NPT is contorted to “allow” for a non-nuclear weapon state to exclude nuclear material/ equipment/facilities from IAEA inspections, there is nothing that will prevent any other NPT state party to do the same, which we fear could fatally impact the non- proliferation regime.

Secondly, the unwritten mantra of this organisation is “trust is good verification is better”.  The AUKUS states are asking us to trust them because of their extremely “exemplary safeguards records”. We do not question the good standing of the AUKUS partners, it is simply not good enough to be asked to rely on trust alone.

The IAEA has a legal verification obligation, which it executes on behalf of all of the international community. Therefore, as is the case with all safeguards agreements, any adjustment to Australia’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol and the Voluntary Offer Agreements of the UK and the US must be subjected to scrutiny by the Board. We accept that information is still scarce but our impatience should also be understood.

With this in mind we ask that the Director General to continue to report on developments to the Board, regularly preferably in writing and if possible more substantially.

I thank you.

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