IAEA involved in SA nuclear security

2011-06-09 21:14

Pretoria - Interventions over security concerns at the Pelindaba nuclear facility called for by the DA, had already taken place more than three years ago, the SA Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) said on Thursday.

Necsa chief executive Rob Adam issued a statement on Thursday after Democratic Alliance spokesperson Pieter Van Dalen said on Wednesday he had written to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure that South Africa's stock of weapons grade uranium was securely stored.

In a statement, Van Dalen cited a November 2007 security breach when four men penetrated the Pelindaba facility and the Pretoria arrest of seven men attempting to sell nuclear material. One person was shot and wounded in the 2007 incident.

Adam said: "Necsa itself informed the IAEA in writing immediately after the [2007] incident and requested IAEA assistance in evaluating site security at Pelindaba."

He said that an IAEA team had visited Pelindaba and subsequently pronounced itself satisfied with security arrangements.

"It is worth noting that the intervention requested by Mr Van Dalen already took place three-and-a-half years ago, and that Mr Van Dalen is aware of this fact."

He said the case was in the hands of the South African Police Service, but to date no one had been tried for the armed robbery.

Referring to the 2010 attempt to sell low grade nuclear material, he said that Necsa had been "called by the SAPS to the crime scene to ascertain radiation safety and to take custody of the radioactive source. The radioactive source did not belong to Necsa."

Asked if weapons grade material was being stored at Pelindaba and for what purposes it was being used, he said: "Necsa uses enriched uranium of various grades for radioisotope production and for research purposes, in terms of its statutory mandate."

He said that South Africa had signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1991 and it abides by the treaty.

He said that all nuclear material in South Africa was declared to the IAEA according to the requirements of the treaty. The IAEA also held inspections on a regular basis.

Comment could not be obtained from the department of energy.