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Africa: Good Practices in the Processing of Uranium Ore Concentrate

By US Department of State
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WASHINGTON, May 1, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Remarks

Ambassador Bonnie D. Jenkins

Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs

IAEA Regional Seminar

Windhoek, Namibia

April 23, 2012

Good morning.

I want to thank the Government of Namibia and the International Atomic Energy Agency for hosting and organizing this important seminar on “Good Practices in the Processing and Control of Uranium Ore Concentrate.”

Uranium ore concentrate is the key material for civilian nuclear energy production and for the growth of civilian nuclear energy worldwide and Namibia is a leading supplier of this material. As such, Namibia is a natural host for this seminar, and we are excited that Namibia has taken this opportunity to facilitate these important discussions this week. I would also like to congratulate the Government of Namibia on the recent entry into force of its additional protocol with the IAEA. The AP has great significance in states exploring uranium resources, and I welcome Namibia's actions in adopting this important safeguards agreement. I am honored to be here this week in Windhoek, and I look forward to the discussions and sharing of best practices in the safety, safeguards, and security of uranium ore concentrate.

This seminar is particularly timely given the increased interest in uranium production among states, especially those in the African region, many of which are represented in this room today. From the list of participants, I see there are 22 countries and 15 commercial nuclear enterprises represented, including some of the largest uranium producing countries and nuclear companies in the world.

That the International Atomic Energy Agency has organized this seminar is a testament to the Agency's critical role on issues related to nuclear safety, safeguards, and security, and promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In this regard, I would like to thank the IAEA for its leadership on these topics, especially given the post-Fukushima nuclear landscape. Despite the terrible tragedy in Japan, I believe civilian nuclear power development will grow over the next decades given the demand for new energy sources in Africa, Asia, and across the globe. This trend underscores the important need for governments, regulators, and industry to come together to discuss the safety, safeguards, and security of nuclear material such as uranium ore concentrate.

Clearly many countries around the world, including here in Africa, have extensive uranium reserves. In order to make the most of these commercial opportunities in an environmentally safe and secure manner, it is important for governments, nuclear regulators, and the commercial nuclear industry to have a common and agreed-to understanding of how to mine, process, and export uranium responsibly and in compliance with international norms, best practices, national laws and international obligations.

We all know that the commercial value of a drum of uranium ore concentrate is high. While the intention of uranium production is to reap the economic benefits of this commodity, that same drum could be used maliciously to harm the environment, to carry-out terrorist activities, or to support a clandestine nuclear weapons program. These risks have the potential to damage the market and reduce the positive economic impact on producing countries that the safe and effective management of this material can bring.

This week if we can agree on some common best practices for managing and controlling this important strategic commodity at the government, regulatory, and nuclear industry levels, then I think the future will be even more secure for the production and export of uranium ore concentrate and be more prosperous from its trade.

I encourage you all here to not let this be the only time you discuss these important issues. I urge you all to use this forum to network and build contacts among your regional counterparts and the outside experts here and use these relationships to share ideas and learn from each other. Ultimately it will be up to you, the producing and regulating countries, to implement practices that are best for your country, and we are here to offer advice based on our own experiences and share ideas that might help advance your interests. This is a great opportunity for all of us, and we look forward to the IAEA's continued work on this issue.

While the United States is no longer one of the largest producers of this commodity, I look forward to hearing and learning from you during this seminar so that we can help advance the good practices that are already in place in many of the countries that are represented here this week.

Thank you.