African nuclear commission takes shape

13 August 2012

A new commission to coordinate and promote the development of nuclear energy in Africa is set to become fully operational after key founding documents were finalized and adopted. South Africa has agreed to host the commission in Pretoria.

The African Union (AU) established the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (Afcone) in November 2010, following the entry into force of the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty in July 2009, which required the parties to establish a commission for the purpose of ensuring states' compliance with their treaty obligations and promoting peaceful nuclear cooperation, both regionally and internationally. Twelve commissioners were subsequently elected, representing Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritius, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia. It was agreed that the new commission's executive secretariat would be located in South Africa.

At a meeting in Addis Ababa on 26 July, the commissioners adopted the rules of procedure, structure, program of work and budget of Afcone. The commission will focus on the following four areas: monitoring of compliance with non-proliferation obligations; nuclear and radiation safety and security; nuclear sciences and applications; and, partnerships and technical cooperation, including outreach and promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The meeting agreed to a budget of some $800,000 per year for the period 2012-2014. It also agreed on a scale of assessment for contributions to Afcone's funding.

The South African government and the AU have now finalized a hosting agreement, under which South Africa will provide Afcone with the required office space and equipment in Pretoria.

Afcone chairman Abdul Samad Minty of South Africa said that the commission "could play a useful role to facilitate the implementation by African states of the relevant legally binding instruments and codes of conduct on nuclear safety and security, and have in place their respective nuclear safety and security infrastructures." He noted, "A key aspect of our work is to promote nuclear sciences and applications."

The commission will meet in ordinary session once per year, and may meet in extraordinary session as required.

AU director of peace and security El Ghassim Wane told Afriquejet, "The establishment of Afcone has generated high expectations, from both state parties and within the wider international community, on the important role that it can play in all nuclear related issues."

South Africa is currently the only African country to operate nuclear power plants for electricity generation, but several others - including Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria - are considering building such plants. Namibia, Niger and South Africa are major uranium producers, accounting for about 15% of world output in 2011. Other African countries have significant uranium deposits, with some having prospective uranium mines.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News