IAEA finds South Africa's nuclear facility safe

Published 29 January 2008

On 8 November 2007, the South African nuclear center at Pelindaba was the subject of two mysterious, and simultaneous, attacks; the country’s nuclear monitoring agency, and the IAEA, declare security procedures at the nuclear plant to be satisfactory

We reported last November on a mysterious attack (in fact, two simultaneous attacks which took place on 8 November) on the nucear research center in Pelindaba, South Africa. The National Energy Corporation of South Africa, or NECSA, looked into the matter and now declares that South Africa’s main nuclear facility is perfectly secure. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (AEA) toured the center and determined that personnel at the site were “taking appropriate actions” and “no nuclear installation was (ever) under threat,” said NECSA spokeswoman Chantal Janneker. The UN nuclear watchdog team added that “NECSA provides adequate protection for its nuclear installations [and] that NECSA has good practices in respect of its security system that should be shared with (other IAEA members),” Janneker said. According to Global Security Newswire, “the South African National Nuclear Regulator… has asked NECSA officials to conduct additional security patrols at Pelindaba, rotate its control room staffers and clear foliage to eliminate hiding places for possible intruders.” National Nuclear Regulator spokesman Phil Nkwashu said that “The NNR remains concerned about the situation and has directed NECSA to implement additional security measures and undertake a comprehensive review of all current security provisions.” He added that “Furthermore, similar oversight measures will be undertaken at other South African nuclear facilities where it is deemed necessary.” His agency has reviewed evidence that “points to negligence on the part of some of the NECSA security personnel,” Nkwashu said. A number of security workers at Pelindaba were suspended while NECSA officials investigated the incident. “NECSA has initiated disciplinary action against the staff members concerned,” Nkwashu said.

The IAEA said its “team reported that there was no evidence that sensitive nuclear areas were under any threat at any time during the incident.” It also said that a security upgrade plan at Pelindaba, that began to be implemented by the facility’s operator in 2006, provides an “appropriate basis” for ensuring physical protection of nuclear material and nuclear facilities at the site.