Speaking Points for GC 61 Side Event to Celebrate 20 years of the Joint Convention

South Africa is proud to have been associated with the Joint Convention from –
• the early discussions during the development of the CNS,
• the 1994 IAEA General Conference (GC38/Res 6)
• the meetings of the group of experts
o most notably the 5th meeting of the group of experts was held in South Africa (November 1996) and during this meeting the Concept of Joint Convention with safety of management as the common denominator for both spent fuel and radioactive waste was agreed.
A few years ago, there was an enthusiastic talk of a nuclear renaissance, with plans of building new nuclear power plants by many countries. It is debatable if the renaissance will still take place, but what is more certain, is that more and more plants will be decommissioned. This calls for attention to the issues of the safety of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste, the very objects of the Joint Convention.

The Joint Convention applies to the safety of management of:
• Radioactive waste and spent fuel from civilian nuclear power plants;
• Radioactive waste from nuclear fuel cycle plant operations and from research laboratories;
• Radioactive waste from the use of radionuclides in medicine agriculture and industry;
• Disused sealed sources;
• Discharges to the environment from regulated nuclear facilities;
• Waste from mining and processing of uranium ores.

The Joint Convention applies to countries both with and without nuclear power programs and is aimed at
• achieving and maintaining a high level of safety in spent fuel and radioactive waste management,
• ensuring that there are effective defences against potential hazards during all stages of management of such materials,
• preventing accidents with radiological consequences and
• to mitigate their consequences should they occur.

I am pleased to report that in line with application to all countries, the number of contracting parties has increased since the last review meeting from 69 to 76. The newest contracting party being Cuba who deposited its instrument of ratification on 3 July 2017. The Joint Convention will enter into force for Cuba on 01 October 2017.

Today, as we celebrate 20 years of the existence of the Joint Convention, we must recognise that a number of IAEA Member States are not Contracting Parties to the Joint Convention. Included among these are
• Contracting Parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety and
• several that have issued expressions of support for the Code of Conduct on Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources,

I strongly supports efforts to encourage these IAEA Member States to become Contracting Parties to the Joint Convention. During the three year term as President, I will work with various Regional and international nuclear and radiation networks, in particular those being part of the IAEA Global Nuclear Safety and Security Network (GNSSN)
• EuCAS (European and Central Asian Safety Network),
• ANSN (Asian Nuclear Safety Network),
• ANNuR (Arab Network of Nuclear Regulators),
• FNRBA (Forum of Nuclear Regulatory Bodies in Africa) and
• FORO (Forum of Ibero American Radiological and Nuclear Safety Regulators)
to help support and assist IAEA Member States who are not already Contracting Parties to the Joint Convention to become Contracting Parties.

The increase in Contracting Parties whilst very welcome and encouraging has introduced some logistical problems during the review meeting. As you are aware the review meeting extends over a two week period. The next review meeting being from 21 May to 01 June 2018. In order to ensure that we have a robust and effective peer review process within the given time constraints we will in this next review meeting be having 8 concurrent country group sessions. This arrangement caters for a further 4 new ratifiers after the inclusion of Cuba. Once this number is exceeded we will have to introduce a further country group.

Recognising the challenges experienced in the past, I, with the assistance of the two Vice-Presidents and the Joint Convention Secretariat will work closely with the Country Group Chairs to ensure a consistent and harmonised approach to identification of good practices and overarching issues. We will following the example of the CNS also pilot the application of the concept of “Area of Good Performance” during the next review meeting. The following definition will be used in this regard –

“An Area of Good Performance is a new or enhanced practice, policy or program for a Contracting Party that is commendable and is being implemented. An Area of Good Performance is a significant accomplishment for that Contracting Party, although it may have been undertaken by other Contracting Parties.”

1 An Area of Good Performance could be demonstrated, for example, through achievement of milestones or improvements from the previous review.

To further support the effectiveness and efficiency of the review process,

(1) during the recent meeting of incoming and outgoing officers under the Joint Convention the officers have discussed proposals related to the Format and structure of
• Coordinators reports to be used in Country Group sessions
o A copy of the coordinators report will be provided confidentially to all contracting parties within the relevant country group. This will aid the discussions in the country Group
• Rapporteur Report
o The format of the rapporteurs report will remain similar to that used in the last review meeting, but will include additional slides related to areas of good performance.

(2) All contracting parties will be actively encouraged to fully comply with their obligations under the convention and in particular to actively participate in the peer review process in a frank and constructive manner.
To further improve the transparency to enhance the sharing of experiences all Contracting parties will be actively encouraged to make their national reports under the Joint Convention publicly available.

Lastly recognising that many of existing Contracting Parties and the majority of the new Contracting parties have small or no nuclear power programmes the discussions in the plenary sessions will be aimed at ensuring a good balance of the challenges faced by all contracting parties. During the next review meeting two topical sessions addressing –
• Safe management of disused sealed sources and
• general safety issues, challenges and public acceptance aspects associated with the long-term storage of higher level radioactive waste.