ICTS, the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation convene a round table on regional cooperation in security, safety and safeguards in Africa

12 February 2020. UN, EU and senior government officials, diplomats, nuclear experts, civil society representatives and academics took part in a discussion dedicated to strengthening the regional cooperation in the pursuit of all matters related to nuclear safety, security and safeguards in the countries of Southern Africa. The round table was convened by ISTC and the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) during the 2020 International Conference on Nuclear Security that takes place under the aegis of IAEA in Vienna from 10 through 14 February.

Elena Sokova, head of VCDNP, and David Cleave, Executive Director of the ISTC, greeted the participants in the round table and emphasized the roles and goals of their organizations in spreading examples of good practices in international cooperation and in encouraging better collaboration in all areas of nuclear safety and security. It is especially valid for Africa, where all countries strive to strike a balance between nuclear security and access to nuclear technology for peaceful uses. Anuar Tanalinov Deputy representative of Kazakhstan to the International organizations in Vienna, spoke on behalf of the country that hosts ISTC and leads by example in non-proliferation. Kazakhstan, a world leader in Uranium production and export, has recently convened a forum of all Nuclear-Free Zones and spares no efforts to foster a nuclear safety and security culture to achieving the global development goals.

A special segment of the round table, dedicated to the role of international and regional organizations, saw representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) pledge for better harmonization and synchronization of the activities and initiatives of national authorities and regional bodies in all areas related to nuclear security, safety and safeguards. Dr. Messaoud Baaliouamer, Executive Secretary of AFCONE, provided an overview of the organization’s current endeavours to establish an all African architecture of nuclear culture, where the African Union, AFRA, FNRBA, AFCONE mutually reinforce their mandates and roles. Dr. Baaliouamer highlighted the AFCONE-ISTC Memorandum of Cooperation and singled out the support that Southern African states get in strengthening security and safeguards through the ISTC-implemented projects in Africa. In this vein the two organizations seek support form IAEA for a training course for SADC member states with a module on safe transport of nuclear and radioactive materials. Haroldo Barroso, Director, Division of Operation C, IAEA Department of Safeguards, gave examples of the support missions that assess the national safety and security systems where large gaps between national obligations and national legislations are common weakness. He called to member states to be more proactive in seeking IAEA support.

Topical interventions on the role of the information technologies for better regional cooperation were made by European partners to African states. Nikolay Palov, CEO of Software Company Ltd., Bulgaria, presented a short documentary that illustrates how a web-based Information Tracking System (ITS), designed under an ISTC-implemented project, helps Southern African countries to monitor and control the transportation of radioactive materials within and across national borders. The documentary captures moments of trainings and real-time simulations, organized for radiation experts from Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe in the use of the ITS. Juha Rautjarvi, Societal Security Solutions Ltd. and Harri Toivonen, HT Nuclear Ltd, Finland, talked about assessing the existing capabilities and learning how to improve the specific skills through electronic Table-Top exercises in nuclear security and safety.

Representatives of the national nuclear and radiation protection authorities of Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Kenya provided their national perspectives on the potential of regional cooperation in securing improvement of the current legal regimes, institutional settings and international safeguards obligations of the neighbouring countries of the region of Southern Africa. Prof. Dr. Lazaro Busagala, Director General of the Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission, highlighted the EU support to Tanzania in securing equipment and enhancing professional skills of the staff of all responsible institutions. Tanzania is country that often hosts multicounty trainings and initiatives in nuclear safety, security and safeguards. Boster Siwila, Executive Director of the Radiation Protection Authority in Zambia, gave and overview of the current update and improvement of the national legislation and regulations in radiation protection and environment. He pledged that Zambia will continue to contribute to the regional collaboration in nuclear safety and security, while seeking international assistance in purchasing additional special equipment for portal monitors and scrap metal identification. Justice Chipuru, Acting Chief Executive Officer, the Radiation Protection Authority, Zimbabwe, noted that his organization sees its future active role in regional cooperation along the lines of the policy of reengagement pursued by the new government. In the past, Harare was the venue of the declaration of the SADC nuclear regulators network. Keeping with its spirit, Zimbabwe considers the specialisations of the national Nuclear Security Training Centers essential to avoid duplications and to increase efficiency. Chimwemwe Gamulani, Senior Expert, Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority, Malawi, recognised the benefits of the collaboration with neighbouring countries through the ISTC-implemented projects in nuclear safety, security and safeguards. Dr. David Otwoma, Board member of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Kenya, advocated a stronger collaboration amongst African countries that is based on recognition of their specific strengths. He noted that Kenya, which as its organizations NACOSTI and KEBS as partners to the ISTC, is considering a full membership status as one of the means to increase the number of partners that can jointly contribute to improving the nuclear safety and security culture in Africa.

Questions and interventions from the participants in the round table further clarified the importance of the International Centers of Excellence in Nuclear Security, the experiences from the Nuclear Free Zones in various parts of the world, the role of women in spreading the nuclear culture, the urgent need of medical usage of technology for combating cancer and other diseases in Africa. The first of its kind collaborative event, convened jointly by ISTC and VCDNP, provided and opportunity for the representatives of African states to networking and advocating    their needs and goals in all matters related to nuclear safety, security and safeguards.