Government officials and experts in the field of energy from twelve states – members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) kicked off their Energy Subcommittee Meeting with a one-day workshop on the safety and safeguards of nuclear transportation, organized by ISTC and the SADC Secretariat. Officially inaugurated by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Energy of Tanzania, Ms. Zena A. Said, the capacity development workshop provided an opportunity for over 70 participants from ministries responsible for energy, natural resources and environment to get acquainted with the key principles of nuclear safety, security and safeguards and to discuss the challenges and opportunities for nuclear energy and nuclear applications in Africa. The Director of Infrastructure with the SADC Secretariat Ms. Mapolao Rosemary Mokoena, talked about the wide-ranged agenda that keeps the Energy Subcommittee engaged with regional issues from renewable energy, to energy efficiency to food security. She emphasized that the SADC Secretariat is prepared to apply a multisectoral approach to all matters related to energy and to suggest to member states to consider, in the future, inclusion of the topics of nuclear applications and nuclear safety and safeguards in the SADC policy guiding documents. The workshop participants were greeted in a special address on behalf of ACER, the European Union’s Agency for Cooperation of National Energy Regulators, prepared by Dr. Olga Borisova, Administrative Director. Mr. Elijah C. Sichone, Executive Director of RERA, the Regional Energy Regulators Association of Southern Africa, noted that his institution has already established relations with ACER.
ISTC’s Senior Programme Manager and Diplomatic Advisor Kamen Velichkov presented a team of international experts, invited by ISTC as speakers at the workshop. Prof. Lawrence Dim from Nigeria, Commissioner of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE), offered an overview of the priorities for peaceful use of nuclear energy in Africa as promulgated in the Pelindaba Treaty and the African Union’s bold political agenda. AFCONE strives to align the efforts of various institutions and organizations at national regional and continental level to work in sync in order to multiply the results for safer and secure nuclear future in Africa. Dr. Timur Zhantikin, JSC Kazakhstan Nuclear Power Plant, Director General (2008-2018) of the Committee for Atomic and Energy Supervision and Control, shared experiences and lessons from the perspective of a state, that in the span of 30 years has built its nuclear institutional and legal frameworks and became a world leader in Uranium production and export and in nuclear non-proliferation. The workshop participants were interested to learn from Kazakhstan’s experiences in staffing the national nuclear regulator with capable and skilful experts, in preserving the autonomy and independence of the regulator, and in setting up the mechanism for emergency response to radioactive incidents.
One part of the workshop was dedicated to the activities, results and achievements by the project MC 5.01/15 B Support to Southern African States in Nuclear Safety and Safeguards, funded by the EU’s Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation and implemented by ISTC. African experts presented the national case studies on the safe production and transportation of Uranium Ore Concentrate in Malawi, Namibia, and Zambia. Prof. Justine Ngaile from the Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission highlighted the strong international cooperation in the field of nuclear safety, security and safeguards that helps TAEC in securing skilful staff, advanced equipment and updated regulations that are aligned with the best international nuclear standards. Mr. Walunji Msiska from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority of Malawi presented an overview of the existing legislative, administrative and institutional frameworks that regulates the exploration, production and transportation of yellow cake in his country. He pointed out that during the implementation of project MC 5.01/15 B it became evident that the diverging safety and security regulations along the export route of the yellow cake should be harmonised through a regional effort coupled with bilateral agreements between the transit and exporting countries. Dr. Jeremiah Kebwaro, from Karatina University in Kenya, presented the case study on Namibia, which is prepared based on desk review of national policy documents and reports to UN bodies. Happy Mutanga, Chairman of the Center for Peace and Development in Livingstone, reported on the findings of the national case study on Zambia and made initial suggestions for inclusion in the SADC documents on energy some relevant mentions about the benefits of nuclear energy and the importance of nuclear safety and safeguards.
The design and deployment in Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi and Zambia of a web-based Information Tracking System to monitor the transportation of radioactive materials is one of the key elements of project MC 5.01/15 B. Mr. Nikolay Palov from the Software company, developer of the system, presented a short video about the ITS and the related trainings provided to over 50 African experts on its use. He stated the readiness of his company as a contractor under the ISTC-implemented project, to organize additional trainings and installation of the system in other Southern African states. Representatives from Angola and Botswana expressed an interest to be included in the ITS network and the project.
Dr. David Otwoma, board member of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority in Kenya, eloquently advocated for an African-led effort to embrace the challenges and opportunities of nuclear energy and nuclear applications in the continent, guided by the best international practices and lessons from countries leaders in the field on peaceful use of nuclear energy. He highlighted the benefits of cooperation with ISTC, the IAEA, the European Union and other international partners in building the capacities and political will for a nuclear future in Africa.
Key takeaways, summarised by ISTC at the closure of the workshop include: there exist prospects for future exchange of experiences between ACER and RERA; there is a recognition of the need for an across the board approach that the SADC Secretariat may wish to apply to define areas of competence and overlapping responsibilities in the field of energy; country specific development of relevant national institutions (e.g. Malawi) provides examples to be considered by other countries; while national legal frameworks differ, they should be approximated on the basis of the relevant IAEA recommendations; to synchronize policies and practices, the introduction of IT tools may synchronize approaches including to accidental or incidental response preparedness. Angola will be welcome to submit a request to join the ITS under project MC 5.01/15 B; as evidenced by the national case studies, Sothern African states have joined most of the relevant international conventions and commitments. In this line cooperation with AFCONE along the lines of Pelindaba treaty is highlighted as a sub-regional priority; the experts’ proposals for inclusion in the SADC protocols of provisions on nuclear safety and security, public awareness and informed public opinion deserve further attention; exchange of experience and learning from best practices is encouraged - ISTC and the project MC 5.01/15 B are planning a study trip to Kazakhstan in the summer of 2020 for experts in nuclear energy and transport from Southern African states; ISTC stands ready to welcome new observers or members from Africa amongst its state parties.
Government officials and SADC experts actively participated in moderating the workshop discussions. These included Mr. Yussuf Ali, Director of Planning and Policy with the Ministry responsible for energy, Zanzibar, Mr. Moses Ntlamelle, SPO Energy, Directorate of Infrastructure, SADC Secretariat, Mr. Edward Ishengoma, Acting Commissioner for Electricity and Renewables, and Mr. Adamu Zubari, Commissioner for Petroleum and Gas, Ministry of Energy of Tanzania.