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One Country, Ten Deposits: Benin Joins Nuclear Safety, Security and Liability Treaty Instruments, Brings into Force a Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol

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Benjamin Hounkpatin, Benin's Minister of Health (left) deposits instruments expressing its content to be bound by tne international legal instruments under IAEA auspieces. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

In an unprecedented move by any country, the Government of Benin yesterday deposited instruments expressing its consent to be bound by ten international legal instruments under IAEA auspices all at once and brought into force its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol.

“The use of nuclear technologies has already made a major impact in the development of Benin over the last decade,” said Benjamin Hounkpatin, Minister of Health. “In order to expand its use, particularly in health care, we need to have a robust legal climate. We now do.”

In parallel to preparing adherence to the international treaty instruments, the country also enacted legislation to set up an independent nuclear regulator for the first time. It will be in place in coming weeks, he said.

The IAEA has witnessed many countries deposit legal instruments, but never at this scale, Acting Director General Cornel Feruta said.

“I commend Benin for its commitment to the safe and secure use of nuclear technology,” he said. “We stand ready to continue our support to Benin as it expands the use of nuclear techniques.”

Multilateral treaties under IAEA auspices cover a range of subjects, particularly in strengthening nuclear safety, security and liability globally. These include the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its Amendment, the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage and the 1997 Protocol to amend it, the Joint Protocol Relating to the Application of the Vienna Convention and the Paris Convention and the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage.

At the same time, Mr Hounkpatin handed over a written notification that Benin had passed legislation to bring into force a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (with a revised Small Quantities Protocol) and its Additional Protocol. The additional protocol, which is in force with 136 countries, increases the IAEA’s ability to verify the peaceful use of nuclear material in a country, and to conclude whether all, and not only declared, nuclear material remains in peaceful use. The Small Quantities Protocol is applicable to countries that have relatively little nuclear material.

The IAEA has provided assistance to Benin in preparing domestic legislation related to the safe and secure use of nuclear technology. The assistance involved review and advice on draft legislation, including legislation for the set-up of an independent nuclear regulator and legislation on safety, security and safeguards, which was enacted in 2017. It also provided support through training in nuclear law training and awareness-raising of senior officials.

“We are proud to have helped Benin on its journey towards safer and more secure use of nuclear technologies,” said Peri Lynne Johnson, the IAEA’s Legal Adviser and Director of the Office of Legal Affairs. “We will remain at Benin’s disposal as the authorities work towards the implementation of these treaties.”

Benin has five ongoing national technical cooperation projects, and its benefits from the use of nuclear technology range from breeding new soya varieties to verifying the level of pesticide residues in pineapple and the monitoring of pollutants in the environment and in food.

It is now working on setting up the country’s first radiotherapy and nuclear medicine departments in the capital Cotonou, and plans to purchase its first ever radiotherapy machine, Mr Hounkpatin said.

Read this article about four other countries that during this year’s General Conference deposited legal instruments expressing consent to be bound by various treaties related to the peaceful use of nuclear technology.

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