Cablegate: Next Steps for U.S./South Africa Agreement to Take
DE RUEHSA #4597 3101434
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 061434Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6753
INFO RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
UNCLAS PRETORIA 004597
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
PASS TO ABIENIAWSKI, DOE
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG KNNP IAEA PARM PREL SF
SUBJECT: NEXT STEPS FOR U.S./SOUTH AFRICA AGREEMENT TO TAKE
BACK U.S.-ORIGIN SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL
1. This cable is sensitive but unclassified. Not for
2. (SBU) Summary. South African government approval will be
more likely for a project to take back U.S.-origin nuclear
fuel assemblies once a technical feasibility study has been
revised by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Nuclear
Energy Corporation of South African (NECSA) to explain the
benefits of the project such as knowledge transfer and
storage space creation. End Summary.
3. (SBU) A feasibility study to take back U.S.-origin spent
nuclear fuel from South Africa is being revised by the U.S.
Department of Energy (DOE) and the Nuclear Energy Corporation
of South Africa (NECSA) to improve likelihood that the
project will gain approval from the South African government.
The original version of the feasability study addressed
primarily the technical challenges relating to returning
U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel assemblies from the South
African SAFARI research reactor. The revised feasibility
study will address concerns expressed by South African
Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) Nuclear Chief Mr.
4. (SBU) Econoff and DOE's Andrew Bieniawski and Charles
Messick met October 27th with DME Nuclear Chief Mr. Tseliso
Maquebela to discuss the U.S. origin nuclear fuel take back
program feasibility study. Two days later on the margins of
the RERTR (Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors)
International Meeting in Cape Town, Econoff, Bieniawski and
Messick met with NECSA's CEO Rob Adam and GM Van Zyl de
Villiers to revise the study. During the meeting with
Maquebela, Maquebela stated that the study did a good job of
addressing the technical challenges relating to the shipment
of spent fuel assemblies from the SAFARI nuclear test reactor
in Pelindba, 30 km west of Pretoria, to the South African
coast. However, Maquebela stated that "certain elements"
within the South African government needed to be convinced of
the benefits of returning the spent fuel and that the
feasibility study did not fully convey these benefits.
5. (SBU) Chief among the benefits to incur to South Africa by
shipping spent nuclear fuel back to the U.S. are storage
space creation and knowledge transfer. South Africa stores
spent-fuel of various origin at both the Pelindaba site and
at its commercial reactor site at Koeberg near Cape Town.
The South African's are running out of on-site storage space
and need to either create more space or begin shipping
spent-fuel out of the country or to alternative designated
sites within South Africa. DME's severely understaffed
nuclear section lacks the knowledge base to oversee such
shipments. Maquebela has repeatedly expressed his desire to
learn from the experience of shipping U.S.-origin fuel and
hopes that significant knowlege transfer will result and that
the knowledge will be used for other fuel shipments.
6. (SBU) A revised feasibility study will be authored within
the next thirty days by NECSA and DOE for delivery to DME's
Maqubela who offered assurances that the study will then be
sent expeditiously to DME Minister Buyelwa Sonjica for her
approval. Maquebela was unclear about the nature of the
approval process after obtaining the minister's blessing. He
said the project needed to be discussed by the cabinet but he
also thought that the revised feasibility study and the
minister's approval would be enough to obtain parliament's
approval for the project.