Statement by the Republic of South Africa on the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy (Main Committee III), New York, 2-27 May 2005

Chairperson,

My delegation would like to congratulate you and your vice-chairperson on your election to leadership positions in this main Committee. I want to assure you of South Africa's co-operation during our deliberations on this important issue.

My delegation associates itself with the statement delivered by Malaysia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and other states parties to the NPT on the peaceful uses of nuclear technology.

Chairperson,

Our meeting takes place at a time when non-compliance with NPT non-proliferation obligations is a very topical issue. That as it may be, South Africa believes that we should not renege from what was originally agreed to by all Parties to the NPT and subsequently reaffirmed at every Review Conference that "nothing in the Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all Parties to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I, II and III". By providing a framework of confidence and co-operation within which the development of the peaceful uses of the atom can take place, the Treaty aims at fostering such development.

South Africa strongly believes that peaceful nuclear co-operation and access to the benefits of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy pursuant to Article 4 are integral components of the NPT. The peaceful use of nuclear energy is inextricably linked to the nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation obligations of the Treaty and none of these elements exist in isolation. The NPT is therefore not an a'la carte menu from which states parties may choose their preferences, while ignoring other aspects underpinning the Treaty Regime.

While acknowledging that prevailing proliferation concerns have prompted some to propose restrictions and controls over the legitimate peaceful uses of nuclear energy, it is however important that these must be matched by both the reinforcement of the obligation to achieve nuclear disarmament and by concrete, irreversible and verifiable action in the implementation of the consensual 13 practical steps of agreed upon in 2000. The uncovering of a couple of real or suspected cheaters should not become a pretext to curtail bona fide, lawful programmes of scientific or commercial interest in developing countries, opening the way to the confiscation of sensitive technologies - making them the exclusive property of a few.

Chairperson,

South Africa believes that it is important to review and improve controls over nuclear material, technologies and equipment to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation and illicit trafficking. Experience, however, has shown that no control regime, no matter how comprehensive, can fully guarantee against abuse. Furthermore, the success of controls is dependent on effective information-sharing and co-operation among the relevant parties and the central role the IAEA can - if allowed - play in addressing this illicit trade.

In this respect, my delegation is strongly of the view that a safe orderly system to fuel civilian nuclear reactors is needed that would not add to the danger of nuclear weapon proliferation. However, States should have reliable access, at reasonable cost, to fuel for civilian reactors. Several countries have such facilities, and the objective should not be to maintain the status quo - it should be equitable - any distinction made in this regard would only exacerbate existing inequalities.

At this Review Conference we should guard against the adoption of new measures that would restrict the inalienable right of States Parties to verifiably utilise nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. There is a growing concern that while demands are being made for non-nuclear-weapon States to agree to new measures in the name of non-proliferation, concrete actions towards nuclear disarmament are neglected. South Africa wishes to reiterate that it cannot support unwarranted restrictions on the NPT's guaranteed access to such nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes by States that are fully compliant with their obligations under the NPT. The imposition of additional restrictive measures on some NPT States Parties while allowing others to have access to these capabilities, only serves to exacerbate existing inequalities that are already inherent in the NPT and undermines one of the central bargains that are contained in the Treaty.

Chairperson,

South Africa will continue to promote international co-operation in the field of peaceful nuclear activities, as envisaged in Article III (3) of the NPT and also encourages the exchange of scientific information, particularly in Africa, for the further development of the applications of atomic energy for peaceful purposes, in accordance with preambular paragraph 7 of the Treaty. In this connection, South Africa has actively continued its development work on the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor intended to be an inherently safe nuclear reactor, which is regarded as the leading exponent of the so-called Generation IV nuclear power technology.

South Africa wishes to take this opportunity to thank the International Atomic Energy Agency for all the assistance it rendered in developing the PBMR project in keeping with the IAEA statutory obligations to pursue technical co-operation in the peaceful application of nuclear energy as one of the three pillars of its activities. We appreciate the IAEA assistance to developing Member States in planning for and use of nuclear science and technology for various peaceful purposes, especially in the context of achieving social and economic goals, including, inter alia, the generation of electricity, and also to facilitate the transfer of such technology and knowledge in sustainable manner.

The peaceful application of nuclear energy is of particular relevance and importance to Africa given the urgent need for sustainable and accelerated economic growth on the Continent. In this context, the IAEA projects are of strategic importance to developing countries, particularly for Africa, and can provide the necessary impetus for accelerated economic development, thereby playing a meaningful role in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and enhancing the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). My delegation would encourage the widest possible involvement of all States Parties, particularly developing countries, in the ongoing research and development activities of the IAEA.

South Africa believes that the IAEA's technical co-operation activities have the potential to make a substantial contribution in this regard, as well as in the application of nuclear techniques in combating the occurrence of infectious diseases such as TB, malaria, and HIV/AIDS, which continue to hamper economic prosperity and development in many parts of the world.

Chairperson,

Whilst my delegation supports international efforts aimed at maximising the benefits of nuclear technology applications for peaceful purposes, which deserves our continued attention, we equally strongly support programmes and efforts related to the safety and security of peaceful nuclear programmes, including the need for nuclear transport and waste safety. In this regard, we welcome the progress made in the continuous improvement of IAEA safety standards and their application, including the preparation of various guidance documents and the ongoing provision of training and technical assistance. We believe that the Agency's initiatives provide ideal mechanisms to enhance and evaluate the use of IAEA safety standards documentation, particularly by Member States that are presently developing their nuclear and radiation safety infrastructure.

Chairperson,

To further enhance and promote nuclear safety internationally, South Africa welcomes the IAEA's initiatives for the development of an international safety enhancement program for research reactors and other nuclear installations and also supports the good work being done by the Agency in the area of radiation safety. With regard to radioactive waste management, South Africa is involved in a project supported by the IAEA to evaluate boreholes as a possible disposal option for disused sealed sources. It is hoped that this project would particularly assist developing countries to prevent accidents involving such sources. The transportation of radioactive materials is yet another important issue intrinsically linked to the entire culture of safety, and my delegation would urge that more work should be done to minimise inherent dangers that may occur.

Chairperson,

With regard to nuclear installation safety, South Africa strongly supports the Convention on Nuclear Safety. To demonstrate this support, South Africa, as a Party to the Convention, presented its National Report at the Third Review Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention held in Vienna during April this year. This report was compiled taking into account the general observations and conclusions made in the Report of the Second Review Meeting of the Contracting Parties and other relevant changes in the management of nuclear safety in South Africa. South Africa will continue to identify any potential shortcomings within the South African context and to implement, where necessary, improvement measures.

Chairperson,

Within the context of the African Regional Co-operative Agreement for Research, Development and Training related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA), South Africa continues to work in this regard in order to share expertise and experts to promote and develop the beneficial uses of radiation and nuclear technology for socio-economic development in Africa. AFRA's approach is that African problems relating to nuclear technology should, as far as possible, be solved by the utilization of expertise residing on the African continent, covering its five major themes, namely radiation safety, human health, agricultural development, industrial applications, and self-reliance and sustainability.

Chairperson,

I would like to draw our attention to recent reports on the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals indicating that most of the important targets set by the Millennium Summit are in danger of not being reached. In this regard, we believe that sustainable development through, inter alia, the technical co-operation programme of the IAEA is critically important to an overwhelming majority of developing countries. But these have been strapped for a number of years due to a lack of sufficient funds. These activities can only be assured on a predictable basis when the financial requirements are adequately met. It is of concern that the chronic imbalance between safeguards and promotional activities persists. It is important therefore to augment the IAEA resources for technical co-operation activities on an assured and predictable basis to meet the objectives mandated by Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In conclusion, Chairperson, many have said that the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime is in a state of crisis or is facing a decisive stage. South Africa, however, believes that the strength, credibility and permanence of the NPT rests on a fundamental bargain which must be recognized and upheld if we want the Treaty to be effective and lasting by virtue of its own merits rather than to let it be used to serve selective interests through the perpetuation of discrimination and imbalance. The peaceful use of nuclear energy is an integral part of this equation.

I thank you.


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