Amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material: DMRE briefing

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

05 September 2023
Chairperson: Ms T Modise (ANC, North West)
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Meeting Summary


Amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material

In a virtual meeting, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy briefed the Committee on the Amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), tabled in terms of section 231(2) of the Constitution.

Members wanted to know if there was a deadline for the ratification of the Amendment, and also requested a physical list of all the countries which had thus far ratified it. The Department responded that there was no deadline, and that they would be happy to provide the requested list. Members also expressed concerns about the potential for cyber attacks on nuclear facilities, but the Department assured them that there were measures in place in the country to protect its facilities from any attacks.

Meeting report

Opening comments

The Chairperson welcomed all the Members from their recent recess, and stressed the importance of working hard during the short third term. She said the international agreement on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material was with the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). She acknowledged the importance of such an agreement, acknowledging that the Committee could have dealt with it earlier, had it been issued to the Committee. For this, she wanted to apologise to the Department.

She requested that the meeting agenda be flighted so that they could consider and adopt it, and this was done.

Convention on the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)

As the Department began presenting the amended CPPNM, Mr M Magwala (EFF, Western Cape) interjected on a point of order to ask why the meeting should continue without the presence of the Minister and Deputy Minister.

The Chairperson responded that she had been in contact with the Deputy Minister, who had promised to attend the meeting but was having connection issues. Thereafter, the presentation continued.

Mr Zizamele Mbambo, Deputy Director General: Nuclear Energy Regulation and Management, Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), said the purpose of the Convention was to:

  • Apprise the Committee of the intended acceptance and ratification of the Amendment to the CPPNM.
  • Recommend that the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) approve the acceptance and ratification of the CPPNM as tabled in Parliament in terms of Section 231(2) of the Constitution.

The CPPNM was adopted on 26 October 1979, and enforced on 8 February 1987. South Africa signed the Convention on 18 May 1981 and ratified it on 17 September 2007. State parties to the CPPNM had adopted, by consensus, an amendment to the Convention to strengthen its provisions, on 8 July 2005.

(See presentation attached for further information).


Ms W Ngwenya (ANC, Gauteng) asked if there was a deadline for ratifying the Amendment to the Convention. If so, when was the deadline? Secondly, how many state members were part of the Convention, and which countries had already rectified the Amendment? Could the Department provide a physical list of them? Was there any protection against cyber-attacks for nuclear facilities? Lastly, she proposed the Committee support the Amendment only if it aligns with international law and South Africa's international obligations.

Department's response

Mr Mbambo responded that no deadline had been put forward for the ratification. However, it is essential to note that the Convention had been enforced from 2016. Most countries had ratified this Convention, and it was important that South Africa also ratify it so that it could best adhere to international law and the country's obligations. Most countries would like to be assured that their international obligations were being complied with, and that their security measures complied with the international standards.

132 countries out of 177 had thus far ratified the Convention. He was happy to share the list with the Committee, and proceeded to list the names of some of the 132 countries.

Regarding protection against cyber attacks on nuclear facilities, he said no attack had been launched so far. South Africa already had a well-established system of security against cyber attacks. There were structures which monitored compliance with international obligations and the law.

The Chairperson thanked the DMRE for their presentation, and allowed them to give a last word before their departure.

The Department responded by thanking the Committee for their time, and mentioned that they looked forward to their support and working with them in the future.

Committee matters

The Chairperson asked for the minutes of the meeting of 20 June to be flighted so that they could be considered for adoption, and this was so done.

Before closing the meeting, the Chairperson requested a briefing about the proposed international study tour.

Mr Kobus Jooste, Committee Researcher, said he could comment only on the background documentation for the application which had been developed. There had been a request for a slight change, which had come from the sister committee -- Paraguay had been changed to Uruguay. It had also been suggested to choose sites to visit with hydroelectric installations and investigate the legal and financial processes developed to support those in public partnerships and other countries. Regarding the administration of receiving quotes and the international steps to be taken, he could not comment as he was not part of it. He could comment only on the content.

He handed over to Mr Asgar Bawa, the Committee Secretary, who said the dates were 22 October to 4 November -- a two-week period. They had already submitted their application to management for signature, and planned on submitting it to the House Chair, who now required an application with full quotations. This had already been done in the previous week. The application process had changed because the Department of Foreign Affairs no longer assisted Committees with accommodation and transport, so Parliament would have to secure this on their own.

The Chairperson said that the reason she had requested this briefing was because she wanted the Members to be informed of the process. She was not sure if Parliament would approve such a tour, since they would soon end the term.

The meeting was adjourned.


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