US, SA sign cooperation agreement on nuclear energy

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Vienna - The United States and South Africa have signed a bilateral agreement which is expected to assist both countries in developing nuclear power to support economic growth in a sustainable way.

The Agreement on Cooperation in Research and Development of Nuclear Energy was signed by South African Minister of Energy, Dipuo Peters, and US Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, on the sideline of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Annual General Conference in Vienna, Austria.

According to the United States Embassy, the two countries will collaborate in research and development of advanced technologies for improving the cost, safety, and proliferation-resistance of nuclear power systems.

"They hope to develop advanced concepts and scientific breakthroughs to address and overcome technical and economic obstacles to the expanded peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The cooperation will assist in the development of nuclear power in both countries to support economic growth in a sustainable way," it said.

The agreement will facilitate cooperation in the area of advanced nuclear energy systems as well as augment efforts to promote and maintain nuclear science and engineering infrastructure and skills.

A specific area of cooperation is expected to be research in the South African Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) as part of the multilateral Next Generation Nuclear Plant and Very High Temperature Gas Reactor programs.

The agreement follows bilateral discussions by the US and South African senior officials on a broad range of nuclear energy, nonproliferation, and disarmament issues in Pretoria in August.

President Jacob Zuma and US President Barack Obama decided to expand bilateral dialogue on these issues at the G8 Summit in July.

The US sees South Africa as an important partner in building international consensus and momentum among nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states on the shared nonproliferation and disarmament agenda.

"As the only state to have developed and then given up its nuclear weapons, joining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state, South Africa possesses unique credibility and perspective on these issues," said the embassy.

It further said that the US was looking forward to working with South Africa at the Nuclear Security Summit in April 2010 in Washington.

The 53rd IAEA conference will wrap up on Friday.