This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available. UNCLAS PRETORIA 002830
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
PLEASE PASS TO AF/S/TCRAIG, NP/NE/AKRASS, ABURKART
DOE FOR NNSA/ABIENIASKI, MMANNING
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES SAFARI NUCLEAR
REACTOR CONVERSION TO LEU
REF: A. 03 SECSTATE 306217
B. 03 PRETORIA 05509
C. STATE 092684
D. PRETORIA 001974
1. (U) On July 18, 2005, the Department of Minerals and
Energy (DME) issued a press release announcing the South
African Government's intention to phase out the use of Highly
Enriched Uranium (HEU) fuel in its Safari research reactor
located in Pelindaba. The press release states that the
remaining HEU will be used for the production of medical
radioisotopes, and that conversion will guarantee such
production for a longer period. The full release reads as
The Minister of Minerals and Energy, Mrs. Lindiwe Hendricks,
has announced that the SAFARI-I nuclear research reactor of
the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) located
at Pelindaba will be converted from using High Enriched
Uranium (HEU) to Low Enriched Uranium (LEU).
"This markes yet another milestone in our government's
programme to ensure that the safety of nuclear materials is
enhanced globally." the Minister said.
SAFARI-1 was commissioned in the 1960's as a Materials Test
Reactor (MTR) and is now mainly utilised for the production
of radioisotopes for nuclear medicine appications. The
remaining HEU will generally be applied to the manufacturing
of medical isotopes, mainly Molybdenum-99, used in nuclear
The conversion of SAFARI-1 ensures that the future of the
South African medical isotope production can be guaranteed
for a longer period.
There is increased effort internationally to phase out the
use of HEU in nuclear research reactors. The decision by the
Minister, which is also supported by Cabinet, ensures that
South Africa is in-step with the rest of the world. "This is
just one of a number of measures that we will be announcing
which are aimed at ensuring the sustainability and integrity
of our nuclear sector," the Minister added.
Necsa will now convert its research reactor fuel
manufacturing plant to use LEU. This conversion will be
undertaken over a period of approximately three years and
will provide several opportunities for young scientists to be
engaged in new deveopment projects.
The conversion will be regulated by the National Nucelar
Regulator (NNR) and monitored by the International Atomic
Additional Technical Info:
Many research reactors worldwide are fuelled by High Enriched
Uranium (HEU) with a concentration of 90% of Uranium-235
(U-235). The use of HEU poses challenges in that it can also
be used as source material in nuclear weapons. HEU is
classified as uranium material with a concentration of more
than 20% U-235, whilst Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) contains
less than 20% U-235. Natural Uranium consists mostly of
U-238 isotope, with about 0.7% of U-235. Commercial (power)
nuclear reactors use natural uranium that has been enriched
from 3 to 20% of U-235.
2. (SBU) DME is aware of U.S. offers of technical and funding
support for LEU conversion (Ref A), and that conversion is a
pre-requisite for the return of spent U.S.-origin fuel
assemblies to the United States. Post recommends that we
re-engage the South Africans on these issues within the
context of a Joint Standing Committee on Nuclear Energy
Cooperation (JSCNEC). DME has advised us to expect soon a
favorable response to Secretary Rice's letter of May 19 (Ref
C) concerning the establishment of a JSCNEC.
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