The Select Committee met virtually to consider an agreement between the government of the Republic of South Africa and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) for Co-operation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, tabled in terms of section 231(2) of the Constitution. The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy presented the Agreement. The main purpose of the Cooperation Agreement is to further expand and deepen the mutual beneficial economic, scientific and technical cooperation. The Agreement is a tool that will be used to create the foundation for the cooperation between South Africa and EURATOM in the field of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The agreement includes countries with advanced nuclear programmes and have knowledge and expertise in management of radioactive waste. South Africa will gain lessons learned and expertise from these countries
Members discussed the legislation involved in implementing the Agreement, financial responsibilities, whether provincial interests will be served, how the Agreement will be monitored and SA’s level of expertise nd experience in dealing with radioactive waste.
The Committee endorsed the Agreement.
Agreement between the Republic of South Africa and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) for Co-operation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy
Mr Zizamele Mbambo, DDG: Nuclear Energy, Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), took Members through the presentation. South Africa signed the Intergovernmental Agreement with the European Atomic Energy Community EURATOM) in 2013. On 5 December 2018, Cabinet approved the Agreement between the European Atomic Energy Community and the government of the Republic of South Africa for cooperation in peaceful uses of Nuclear Energy for tabling in Parliament in terms of Section 231(2) of the Constitution. EURATOM has 27 member states and one associated state. EURATOM aims to pursue nuclear research and training activities while improving nuclear safety.
The main purpose of the Cooperation Agreement is to further expand and deepen the mutually beneficial economic, scientific, and technical cooperation. These may include:
-Research and development in the field of nuclear;
-Use of nuclear materials and technologies such as applications in health and agriculture;
-Transfer of nuclear materials and equipment;
-Nuclear safeguards; nuclear safety, radioactive waste and spent fuel management, decommissioning, radiation protection including emergency preparedness and response.
The Agreement is a tool that will be used to create the foundation for the cooperation between South Africa and EURATOM in the field of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
The agreement includes countries with advanced nuclear programmes and has knowledge and expertise in the management of radioactive waste. South Africa will gain lessons learned and expertise from these countries. An instrument of ratification will be deposited with the depository, with the assistance of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. EURATOM's internal procedures are completed and they are ready to begin negotiations on the administrative arrangements.
If either party or any member state of the community violates any of the material provisions of the Agreement, the other party may, on giving written notice to that effect, suspend or terminate in whole or in part co-operation under this Agreement. Before either party acts to that effect, the parties shall consult to decide on whether corrective measures are needed, and if so, the corrective measures to be taken and the timescale within which measures shall be taken. Such action shall be taken only if there has been a failure to take decided measures within the time decided to by the parties or, in the event of failure to find a solution, after the lapse of a period defined by the parties. Termination of this Agreement shall not affect the implementation of any arrangements and/or contracts made during the period of its validity but still not completed by the date of its termination unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties.
It is recommended that Parliament approves the Agreement between the European Atomic Energy Community and Government of the Republic of South Africa for cooperation in peaceful uses of Nuclear Energy in terms of section 231(2) of the Constitution.
Ms C Labuschagne (DA, Western Cape) thanked Mr Mbambo for the presentation and noted the presentation made reference to legislation being put in place. In terms of this agreement, how many of these kinds of programmes does SA have and does it involve any fiscal or financial cost? She noted that the presentation mentioned a fund to be created but does this mean the programmes are waiting for these funds to become available or are the programmes already ongoing? She questioned the timeline of the legislation involved.
Ms W Ngwenya (ANC, Gauteng) asked whether the international Agreement will ensure that provincial and local government interests will be taken into consideration, particularly on the area of the cooperation as may be determined by the parties in writing. If yes, can the Committee get more details? She also noted that on page 4 bullet 2 of the presentation, it is stated that Cabinet approved this international Agreement on 5 December 2018, but the presentation was not clear on when the Agreement was tabled in Parliament. Is there a copy of the letter from the Minister tabling the Agreement in Parliament? Has the Portfolio Committee endorsed the Agreement? If so, when and if not, why?
Ms L Bebee (ANC, KZN) asked who will monitor the implementation of the Agreement and how often will it be reviewed. How will the Department ensure there is widespread or mutual beneficiation economically for provinces during the implementation of the Agreement? She also asked if the Department will be able to provide a report on an annual basis on the progress regarding the implementation of the Agreement. If yes, the Committee should get a report in the next six months. If this cannot be done, it must be explained why not.
Mr T Matibe (ANC, Limpopo) asked why there was a protracted time between signing the Agreement and the request for tabling. What were the challenges or hiccups? Mr Matibe argued that Members need to know so that it can be dealt with as the Committee. If they are any agreements and the Department is facing similar challenges, the Committee can assist. He argued that the cooperation entered into is about research and development, but he could not hear if there were any implications in terms of financial commitment for participation and research – were there any financial commitments? These other countries have knowledge and expertise and management of radioactive waste but what is SA’s level of knowledge and expertise?
Adv Thabo Mokoena, Director-General, DMRE, thanked the Members for the questions and allowed the Deputy Director-General Mr. Mbambo to respond to the questions.
Mr Mbambo noted that the interest of the provinces is taken into account when the Agreement is signed. It is important that, in terms of the areas of interest, the parties will determine specific areas of research and development and where the progress will take place etc. Several South African institutions and universities are located within provinces and it is the Department’s view that as they engage in areas of research and development with their counterparts in the European Union (EU), they will also be guided by what the prevailing circumstances within the provinces in which they are situated. Research and development must translate into economic benefits of SA and its provinces.
On the cost of cooperation, when looking carefully at the Agreement, it indicates that if there are any areas involving financial implications, these will be dealt with separately. The Department understands that each of the interested stakeholders will be responsible for their own cost in terms of research undertaken. This will be dealt with at a later level. At this stage, there are no financial implications.
Responding on the timeframe of the legislation, the fund bill on radioactive waste management was specifically mentioned. The Department is busy with this Bill which is important in terms of ensuring there is long term sustainability of funding projects for high-level radioactive waste. It will be managed in terms of a timeline so that this Bill goes through the public hearing process – the Department is possibly looking at the end of the financial year for the Bill to be presented to Cabinet for approval.
Mr Mbambo asked for some time to find the date of when the Minister tabled the Agreement in Parliament and a copy of the letter of the tabling. The information is there but he did not have the dates offhand.
On who will monitor and review the Agreement, the Agreement it identifies the Department as the responsible authority in South African in terms of implementing the Agreement hence the Department will be responsible for monitoring and evaluation. Once the agreement has been endorsed the parties, the Department and EURATOM will start engaging on the implementation modalities which will be contained in the administrative engagements dealing with the finer details.
On the level of knowledge and expertise with regards to the management of radioactive waste, South Africa has a long history of the management of nuclear waste and it has a nuclear power station that has been operating for over 30 years hence it has the expertise in the country. There is also the National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute whose mandate is to manage the radioactive waste on a national basis. This demonstrates the country's capacity for radioactive waste.
Regarding whether annual reports can be sent to the Committee, once the modalities of how the agreement would be managed after the parties have agreed have been sorted out, then this can be discussed.
Ms Tshilidzi Ramuedzisi, Chief Director: Energy Planning, DMRE, responded on the fund to be created – this will sorted out once the Agreement is in place. There are two separate processes for the Bill to follow i.e. the legislative process and financing in terms of a polluter pays principle whereby the radioactive waste producers will contribute to the fund.
The Chairperson thanked the Department for the presentation and said the Committee notes that the Agreement includes countries with advanced nuclear programmes, expertise and knowledge and it will be beneficial to South Africa. The proposed implementation plan is welcomed. She agreed to the Agreement as long as it is inclusive and benefits the country.
The DG thanked the Committee for listening and giving their input. He expressed his gratitude for how well the Department and the Committee have worked throughout the year. The Committee has been supportive of the Department and he appreciates that.
Report of the Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy on the Ratification of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of South Africa and the EURATOM for Co-operation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy as well as the Explanatory Memorandum attached thereto
The Report was adopted.
The Committee adopted minutes for previous meetings.
The Chairperson thanked Members and noted that the year was tough but as a Committee, they managed to adapt and achieve the oversight goal. She thanked the support staff for a job well done.
The meeting was adjourned.
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