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At the SADC Project’s final meeting NRN adopts important decisions while Zimbabwe and Zambia sign a bilateral MoU on cooperation

On 7 and 8 April the Joint Meeting of the Steering Committee of EU Project MC 5.01/15B and the SADC Nuclear Regulators Network (NRN) continued its sessions at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, covering an extensive agenda and taking stock of the achievements of the Project.

The South African expert Paul Hinrichsen, Coordinator of the FNRBA Working group on Transportation, made a presentation on the Regional Training Course on the Implementation of the IAEA Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material. The Course was organized jointly by AFCONE, FNRBA, and ISTC and constituted a major activity in the framework of the Project. It also made use of EU experience through the participation as a key lecturer of Christel Fasten, Senior Expert from Germany, who also shared her takeaways from the Project.

Nikolay Palov, the CEO of the Software company (SC), Bulgaria, presented the Project’s principal deliverable – the Information Tracking System (ITS) that provides an opportunity for monitoring national and international shipments of radioactive material. The user-friendly ITS system comprises of 12 modules compatible with the IAEA RAIS database and allows for customization in any of three language versions – English, French and Portuguese. SC Senior experts Gabriela Miteva and Plamen Tonchev explained that ITS was deployed in 8 SADC countries, and trainings and exercises were organized in each of them, while some exercises were carried out in a multicounty setting, notably the cross-border exercise with 3 vehicles on a 1615 km route from Lubumbashi (DRC) via Lusaka (Zambia) to Beitbridge (Zimbabwe). The comments from African partners following the presentation and the video from the trainings, expressed appreciation of the IT tool and of the fact that a great deal of training was provided to enable the use of the system by regulators and transporters in their everyday work.

Sheriffah Noor Khamseah,  Consultant to the ISTC and Former Special Officer to the Science Advisor to Malaysia's 4th Prime Minister, shared her views on some aspects of nuclear governance and stakeholders’ engagement in Southern Africa. She provided pertinent recommendations to the SADC countries based on the findings from the series of ISTC webinars and the data collection. The advice covered areas such as: introduction of organizational innovation, the setup of national committees, designation of national Focal Points on transport facilitation, review lessons from UOC transport experience in South Australia, etc.

The host of the event - Justice Chipuru, CEO RPA – Zimbabwe, summarized the main results from the meeting on the reconstitution of the SADC Nuclear Regulators’ Network: a Steering Committee comprising Zimbabwe, Tanzania and the Seychelles will direct the work until the NRN meeting in 2023. The NRN objectives will be based on the Action Plan, elaborated under the coordination provided by Zambia within the framework of Project MC 5.01 15B. The NRN Memorandum of Cooperative Agreement was revised and updated. Participating regulators will delegate experts to the several Technical Working Groups on priority areas that were decided upon. NRN will seek its place in the continent’s nuclear governance architecture by establishing cooperative relations with SADC, IAEA, AFCONE, FNRBA, and others.

Dr. Kamen Velichkov, ISTC Senior Manager and Diplomatic Advisor, expressed his highest appreciation, acknowledgement, and gratitude to the members of the Project Steering Committee, NRN, and the enthusiastic young members of the Working Group, to the excellent Team of experts, to the African Young Generation in Nuclear, and other organizations that supported the Project. He also congratulated the newly elected NRN Steering Committee members wishing them success in their endeavors, which ISTC stands ready to support.

In his closing statement, Alain Van Den Brande, Project Manager – EU policies, EC Directorate-General INTPA, recalled the decision by the European commission to reinforce its cooperation with Africa, including in the area of competence of the Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation. New projects aiming to strengthen the regulators and Transmission system operators of individual countries are in the making; support to the regional cooperation is also a worthy objective provided that such a request for assistance should be expressed by the African partners.

The closing act of the meeting was the signing ceremony for the Zimbabwe - Zambia Memorandum of Understanding. In addition to statements made by the signatories - Justice Chipuru, CEO RPA, on behalf of Zimbabwe and Mushaukwa Kabukwe, Director, Technical Services Department, RPA, on behalf of Zambia, two young ladies coming respectively from each of the two institutions - Nokuthula Ncube and Melody Nsofwa, provided a background to the cooperative agreement and insights on how it was conceived and elaborated. Yet another young woman in nuclear - Vongai Mavurayi-Mutanga from RPA – Zimbabwe, who moderated several sessions on the NRN meeting, declared its adjournment.