Myanmars Mysterious Reference

The Union of Myanmar today took the floor of the General Conference. In its statement, the country referred to its 2007 Cooperation Agreement with the Russian Federation on the construction of a small pool-type research reactor. It stated, quite clearly, that the implementation of this agreement has not yet started. A while ago, this was reported by journalist Mark Hibbs in Nuclear Fuel, quoting a senior Russian industry official (IAEA Probes Myanmar data, discourages new research reactors, NuclearFuel, August 10, 2009, p3-4).

Interestingly, Myanmar did mention that the IAEA had visited the country in November 2008 for  a seminar on the safeguards system. That meeting had focussed on the application of safeguards under an amended small quantities protocol  and additional protocol. Myanmar’s comprehensive safeguards agreement, reproduced in INFCIRC/477, entered into force on 20 April 1995. There are no safeguarded nuclear facilities in Myanmar, so it has a Small Quantities Protocol (SQP) attached to this agreement. It still hasn’t amended its SQP (see this article by Jan Lodding and Bernardo Ribeiro for more information on what that means).

There was no reference in Myanmar’s statement as to what it intends to do next. Hopefully, though, the country will sign up the modified SQP. Myanmar’s regulatory framework is quite weak. Nuclear activities are governed by an “Atomic Energy Council” lead by the Minister of Science and Technology (led by minister U Thaung). This law has a framework character, and simply lies out the fundamentals. More work is probably underway on establishing the necessary infrastructure. For instance, work on strengthening the countries regulatory system is progressing under the IAEA’s technical cooperation program. For instance, some two years ago, the Agency started a project together with Myanmar to “strengthen the national capability for improvement of radiation protection infrastructure”.