Monday, February 13, 2012

Nuclear Security: More than Guns, Guards and Gates

Participants of the experts' workshop on
'Progress on Securing Africa's Nuclear Resources'
Amelia Broodryk, Researcher, Transnational Threats and International Crime Division, ISS Pretoria

The security of nuclear and other radioactive material and associated technologies will again be in the spotlight from 27 - 27 March 2012 at the second Nuclear Security Summit taking place in Seoul, South Korea. The summit is a follow-on meeting to the 2010 Washington Nuclear Security Summit and is one of many nuclear security-related initiatives that have emerged in the last five years focusing specifically on the challenges of securing nuclear materials, as well as the threat of nuclear terrorism.
The same 47 countries invited to participate in the 2010 summit have been invited to attend the meeting in Seoul, including five African states – Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa. Participating countries were chosen according to their geographic, economic, and political diversity, as well as their involvement in nuclear security in general. The scope of the meeting will echo that of the 2010 summit and will focus on implementing the international nuclear security regime. In addition, the impact of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster will also be discussed. Although participation in the Nuclear Security Summit process is limited, it is another opportunity for states to commit to implementing the international nuclear security regime, which includes the legal and institutional framework for the protection of nuclear and other radioactive materials.

There is a perception that nuclear security is not a pressing priority for Africa. However, several African states have made significant progress towards implementing security regimes both before and since the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit. In 2011, Ghana ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Cameroon, Chad, Guinea-Bissau and Zambia deposited their instruments of ratification for the Treaty of Pelindaba (Africa’s Nuclear Weapon-Free-Zone Treaty), and the African Union hosted the First Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) in May 2011. The establishment and operationalisation of AFCONE, the treaty’s implementation body, is currently underway. The 12 commissioners of AFCONE have been elected for a three-year term and are from the following countries: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritius, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia.

In preparation for the summit, African states held several formal and informal meetings, including a regional meeting hosted in Rabat, Morocco in November 2011. In addition, the Institute for Security Studies hosted an experts’ workshop on securing Africa’s nuclear resources on 1 – 2 February 2011 and a follow-on workshop on progress on securing Africa’s nuclear resources on 8 – 9 February 2012.

The outcome of the latter workshop is an “African Action Plan” on securing Africa’s nuclear resources. Importantly, this final document was drafted by participants and set out implementable actions on nuclear security issues that African states could take on international, regional/sub-regional, and national levels.

On an international level:

  • African states, the African Union and members of AFCONE that are participating in the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit must ensure that African concerns are reflected in the final document of the summit.
  • The submission by African states of appropriate country programme documents (the tool by which the IAEA engages with member states) to the IAEA, which articulates a country’s developmental needs.
  • The active participation of African states in existing international regimes established by the United Nations (UN) and the IAEA.

On regional/sub-regional level:

  • To support the full implementation of the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba) and the establishment of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE).
  • To encourage the African Commission on Nuclear Energy to leverage the strength of both the African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA) and the Forum of Nuclear Regulatory Bodies in Africa (FNRBA) so as to both avoid duplication of effort and to prevent gaps.
  • To support regional bodies, such as AFRA, FNRBA and AFCONE in their quest develop coherent nuclear security norms.

On a national level:

  • To put in place effective policies, legislation and regulatory frameworks for nuclear security, and to take steps to ensure the safety of nuclear and other radioactive materials and facilities as well as to improve import and export controls.
  • To put in place, where they do not exist, national nuclear regulators and the appropriate institutional infrastructure responsible for policy guidance, research and monitoring on all aspects of the peaceful application of nuclear and other radioactive materials.
  • To enhance the capacity of national law enforcement officials to deal with the trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive material, including appropriate training on investigative procedures, border control and the upgrading of equipment and resources.

Access by unauthorised persons or organisations to vulnerable nuclear material will remain one of the most challenging threats to global security if the international community does not develop appropriate security measures. The African continent is already leading by example through initiatives such as the FNRBA and AFCONE, and this spirit of co-operation can certainly benefit and shape the international nuclear security agenda. Finding the balance between security and development is the most challenging aspect of the international nuclear security regime, and it is imperative that African states play a key role in determining the nuclear security agenda in future.

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