International links for African nuclear

18 September 2013

African nuclear safety regulators are to step up their cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency as the continent makes increasing use of nuclear energy.

Flory and Simo, September 2013 (IAEA) 250x167
IAEA deputy director general Denis Flory and FNRBA chairman Augustin Simo sign to cooperate in Vienna today

Only one nuclear power plant operates in Africa, at Koeberg in South Africa, but there are eight research reactors across the continent and major uranium mining operations. Radioactive sources are increasingly used for science, agriculture, industry, water management and healthcare.

A group counting 30 national authorities has been assembled by the African Union. Called the Forum of Nuclear Regulatory Bodies in Africa (FNRBA), it has the goal of enabling those countries to improve nuclear regulation, by dealing with outdated practices, gaps in legislation, gaps in compliance and ensuring adequate regulatory independence.

Yesterday at the IAEA General Conference in Vienna the FNRBA signed practical arrangements with the IAEA to step up their cooperation. Both the organisations agreed to "support efforts to enhance and strengthen radiation protection, nuclear safety and security, and regulatory infrastructure... and to harmonize best practices." They will "support capacity building and promotion of knowledge management... as a key to stimulating human resource development and knowledge transfer."

Nubian Aquifer Project

Another African initiative for the IAEA is its leadership of the Nubian Aquifer Project, which relates to the water resource lying beneath Chad, Egpyt, Sudan and Libya. The countries agreed a strategic action plan in Vienna today that the IAEA said aims to optimize the equitable use of the system. The acquifer is non-renewable it is therefore important for the countries to understand the effect their withdrawals are having and plan for its eventual depletion. The project involves the countries and the IAEA as well as the United Nations Development Programme, the Global Environment Facility and the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It is led by IAEA due to its expertise in groundwater and isotope techniques. 

The FNRBA is one result of the 1996 Pelidaba Treaty, in which African nations vowed to forego nuclear weapons, but affirmed their determination to "promote regional cooperation for the development and practical application of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in the interest of sustainable social and economic development."

Speaking late last year at the second conference of the treaty, FNRBA chair Augustin Simo noted "an increased will and political commitment by the African countries to advance the application of nuclear technology for power generation." Leading the continent is South Africa, which already operates two nuclear power reactors and is planning to vastly increase its capacity by up to 9600 MWe by 2030. Its National Nuclear Regulator has a leading role in the FNRBA. Africa's most populous country, Nigeria, is seen as making real progress towards the introduction of nuclear power, having started up its first research reactor at Ahmadu Bello University in 2004.

States that began to develop nuclear plans but have put these on the back-burner include Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Libya. Other African nations with rapidly growing power demand and a declared interest in nuclear energy include Kenya, Senegal, Ghana, Sudan and Yemen.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News