Statement by Minister Buyelwa Sonjica, to the IAEA General Conference,
Vienna, 18 September 2006
Allow me, Mr President to add my country's voice in congratulating
you on the assumption of your role as President of the General Conference and
the honour bestowed on the Governor of South Africa to guide us through this anniversary
session - the 50th Regular Session - that marks a significant point in the history
of the International Atomic Energy Agency. South Africa is fully committed to
its objectives as set out in Article II of the IAEA's Statute, with a view to
further the development and applications of nuclear technology towards peace,
health and prosperity.
Let me, once again, convey my Government's congratulations
to the Director General of the Agency and the Agency Secretariat on receiving
the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. Such an award is indeed a great recognition of
the Agency's work and efforts to ensure the peaceful and safe use of nuclear energy.
We believe that this honour will also encourage the IAEA to face, with
new resolve, the current challenges facing the nuclear disarmament and the nuclear
I also would like to take this opportunity to
extend a warm welcome to the Republics of Malawi, Mozambique, Montenegro and Palau
who have joined the Agency and assure them of our support. The growing representation
by developing countries in the Agency is, in our view, evidence of the increasing
relevance of nuclear energy and its potential contribution towards socio-economic
The increasing recognition of the role
that nuclear energy can play in meeting the energy requirements of the 21st Century
has prompted a review of national energy policies. Renewed international commitment
to the expansion of nuclear energy requires increased international co-operation
to ensure the safety, security and peaceful use of nuclear energy.
South Africa is committed to the continuous review and strengthening of measures
aimed at preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including
the Agency's safeguards system, we believe that real progress in securing our
world from the threat of nuclear weapons can only be achieved through concomitant
progress in the area of nuclear disarmament.
It is only through full compliance
by all States with their respective legal obligations in the areas of non-proliferation
and disarmament that peaceful uses of nuclear energy can thrive for the benefit
Member States will recall that "turning swords into ploughshares"
in nuclear weapons context has long stood as a symbol of international efforts
aimed at the elimination of nuclear weapons. We therefore again call on the nuclear-weapon
States to reaffirm their commitments and undertakings to systematically and progressively
eliminate their nuclear weapon arsenals.
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 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 contained in the Treaty.
regard to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) nuclear programme,
South Africa remains concerned about the lack of progress in finding a lasting
solution. We appeal to the DPRK to return to the NPT, to eliminate all its nuclear
weapons and to place all its material and facilities under IAEA Safeguards.
the implementation of NPT safeguards in the Islamic Republic of Iran, my delegation
has noted the co-operation extended by the Iranian authorities to the Director
General and his staff, in particular in providing the Agency with access to nuclear
material and facilities and in providing the required reports. South Africa has,
however, also noted in the Director General's report that there remains very little
progress in resolving the outstanding safeguards issues.
We are encouraged
by the preliminary discussions that have recently taken place between Iran and
the European High Representative. For the first time since August 2005, there
seems to be a real possibility of resuming negotiations with the view to resolving
differences. South Africa will continue to support all efforts aimed at finding
a sustainable, long-term agreement that takes full account of the rights, obligations,
concerns, needs and legitimate aspirations of all the parties involved.
Africa strongly believes that we cannot afford a further major crisis in a region
of high tension, conflict, instability and a general lack of security, as well
as massive suffering on the part of ordinary citizens. We believe that if all
parties concerned continue to de-escalate the process, exercise restraint and
show the necessary flexibility, any differences can be resolved without the need
to resort to confrontation and coercive measures. It is our hope that we will
all act in a manner that would build the necessary trust and confidence to normalize
this complex matter.
Notwithstanding the involvement of other organs of
the United Nations, the IAEA remains the sole competent authority responsible
for verifying and assuring, in accordance with its Statute, Iran's compliance
with its safeguards agreement. If we are to preserve the integrity, authority
and credibility of the Agency to confirm the peaceful nature of our respective
nuclear programmes, there rests a responsibility on all of us to fully co-operate
with the Agency in a pro-active and prompt manner.
me remind Members States of the unambiguous principle enshrined in Article IV
of the NPT 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
and II. This principle provides the necessary framework for the pursuance of nuclear
energy for peaceful purposes.
As a country with abundant natural resources,
South Africa is continuously seeking ways of maximising their utilisation. Our
Integrated Energy Plan recognises the need for nuclear power to play a role in
meeting our energy needs and in contributing to security of supply through diversity.
As you are aware, good progress is also being made with our own innovative Pebble
Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) and it is envisaged that the PBMR demonstration plant
will be completed by 2011, with the first commercial modules planned for 2013.
The building of other baseload nuclear power plants using advanced versions of
existing technologies is also under consideration. These factors have necessitated
a study into the possible beneficiation of our uranium resources. I recently announced
that a cost-benefit analysis will be undertaken with the objective of determining
which areas of the fuel cycle could be pursued. We will be methodical in this
process and we will do this within the confines of all our obligations.
Distinguished delegates may recall that in July 2005, the South
African Government approved the conversion of the SAFARI research reactor at Pelindaba
from utilising High Enriched Uranium (HEU) fuel to Low Enriched Uranium (LEU)
fuel. The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA) is already progressing
well with the establishment of technology for the manufacturing of LEU silicide
The demonstration of the borehole disposal concept for the spent
sealed sources was successfully completed by the NECSA with a favourable report
from the Agency's peer review team. Building on the success of this project, NECSA
has been contracted to design and construct a system for the safe handling of
spent high activity radioactive sources.
Under the African Regional Co-operative
Agreement (AFRA), South African experts continue to participate in specialized
teams that carry out missions in AFRA member states, including the promotion of
national and regional self-reliance in nuclear science and technology, the conditioning
and safe storage of spent radium sources and the auditing of nuclear medicine
and radiotherapy facilities. Our appreciation of the assistance received from
the Agency in support of the AFRA initiatives cannot be overemphasised. This is
evidence of nuclear energy's contribution towards the achievement of the Millennium
Development Goals of reducing poverty.
Important activities undertaken
in the context of the Agency's Technical Co-operation (TC) programme, particularly
in the area of health, agriculture and water resource management have the potential
of positively affecting and improving the livelihood of countless numbers of people.
It is for this reason that South Africa places a high premium on the IAEA's Technical
Co-operation Programme. We recognise the important contribution that the application
of nuclear energy for peaceful uses can make towards sustainable development,
including on our own African continent.
A new Country Programme Framework
for South Africa has been completed. In our quest to ensure sustainability of
TC projects and in line with the IAEA strategy, the South African Government has
set aside some additional funding to upscale TC projects in the country.
Africa attaches great importance to skills development. In this context, we are
pleased that the regional IAEA Post Graduate Course on Radiation Protection will
resume next year. This course has indeed laid a solid foundation for the development
of expertise in Radiation Protection in our region. South Africa expresses its
gratitude to the Agency for the excellent support rendered under the TC programme,
which is making an indelible contribution to the socio-economic development of
our country. It is for this reason that we shall continue to pay our assessed
contributions to the TC fund in full and on time.
Africa supports the Agency's initiatives for the harmonization and strengthening
of international co-operation in nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety
through active participation in the Agency's Safety Standards programme. We continues
to participate actively in the four safety standards committees and the Commission
on Safety Standards. The recent endorsement by this Commission of the Common Fundamentals
is a major step forward in harmonization of the Agency's series of safety standards.
As the use of nuclear energy increases, a continued focus on safety will go a
long way towards its sustainability.
South Africa also welcomes the proposed
revision of the Basic Safety Standards (the BSS) as there is a need for consistency
in international standards. However, careful attention will have to be given to
the merit of any changes that might be proposed during the revision process.
Africa strongly supports the Convention on Nuclear Safety and, as a follow-up
to the Third Review meeting, has undertaken a detailed review of the conclusions
made in the Summary report with the objective of identifying future potential
shortcomings within the South African context and to implement, where necessary,
I am pleased to report that the South African Parliament
has approved the accession to the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel
Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. This also followed
the approval of a Radioactive Waste Management Policy and Strategy by our Government
in November 2005.
To assist in strengthening regulatory
effectiveness on a regional basis we are investigating the establishment of a
Regional Nuclear Safety Regulatory Forum. Our nuclear regulator will soon be engaging
with counterparts in this regard. The aims of this Forum would be to ensure the
strengthening of regulatory frameworks, infrastructure, as well as the harmonisation
of safety standards. South Africa supports the Code of Conduct on the safety and
security of radioactive sources together with the guidance on the import and export
of radioactive sources.
My Government welcomes the
report of the Auditor General on the Agency's accounts for 2005. Whilst we recognise
some financial constraints, we would like to impress upon Member States to heed
the call to honour their assessed contributions on time and in full to assure
the implementation of the Agency's Major Programmes.
In conclusion, Mr President,
as the world's foremost international governmental forum for scientific and technical
co-operation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, it is imperative that the
IAEA remains diligent in its efforts to ensure the continued development of and
the peaceful application of nuclear technology taking into consideration the needs
of the under-developed areas of the world. South Africa remains fully committed
to assist and to contribute to these efforts.
I thank you.
by Department of Foreign Affairs
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