Fact Sheet

South Africa Nuclear Overview

South Africa Nuclear Overview

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Background

This page is part of the Saudi Arabia Country Profile.

Since abandoning its nuclear weapons program, South Africa has emerged as a champion of both global nuclear nonproliferation and equal access to peaceful nuclear energy. However, South Africa’s remaining dual-use nuclear capabilities have made it both a possible exporter of nuclear technology and know-how, and a target for state and non-state actors seeking nuclear materials.

South Africa is the only country to have built nuclear weapons and then voluntarily dismantled them. In the 1980s, South Africa constructed six gun-type nuclear weapons and had started building a seventh. Less than a decade after assembling its first nuclear weapon, South Africa voluntarily abandoned its nuclear weapons program, joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapon state, and allowed international inspections of its former nuclear weapons program. 1 In 1993, South African President F. W. de Klerk announced publicly that South African had pursued a nuclear weapons program from 1974 through 1990 as a deterrent to counter a perceived Soviet threat in the region. However, South Africa’s remaining dual-use nuclear capabilities have made it both a possible exporter of both nuclear technology and expertise, and a target for state and non-state actors seeking nuclear materials.

History

In 1948, South Africa established the Atomic Energy Board, the precursor to the Atomic Energy Corporation, to oversee the development of the nation’s uranium mining and trade industry. 2 Under the umbrella of the “Atoms for Peace” program, South Africa signed a 50-year nuclear collaboration agreement with the United States in 1957 that resulted in South Africa’s acquisition of a nuclear reactor and an accompanying supply of highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel. 3 In 1965, the U.S. firm Allis Chalmers Corporation delivered the 20MW SAFARI-1 (South African Fundamental Atomic Research Installation) nuclear reactor and 90% HEU fuel to South Africa. Located in Pelindaba, near Pretoria, SAFARI-1 was commissioned that same year.

By 1967, South Africa had constructed its own reactor as part of a plan to produce plutonium, the SAFARI-2 (also known as Pelinduna or Pelindaba-Zero) also located at Pelindaba. This reactor went critical using 606kg of 2% enriched uranium and 5.4 metric tons of heavy water, both supplied by the United States. SAFARI-2 was part of a project to develop a reactor moderated by heavy water, fueled by natural uranium, and cooled by sodium. However, only a few years later in 1969, South Africa abandoned the critical assembly at Pelindaba and the heavy water reactor project because it was draining resources from the uranium enrichment program initiated in 1967. 4

South Africa had sufficient experience with nuclear technology to capitalize on the Ploughshares Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE) program when the U.S. government, and particularly Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, began promoting it. South African Minister of Mines Carl de Wet approved a research program on PNEs in 1971, with the publicly stated objective of using PNEs in the mining industry. 5 The date when the PNE program transformed into a weapons program is a matter of some dispute. A 1983 U.S. intelligence report stated that South Africa formally began its nuclear weapons program in 1973, with scientists instructed to develop gun-type, implosion, and thermonuclear weapon designs. The report also concluded that South Africa had conducted research projects on a gun-type device using two modified naval guns, and on the firing system of an implosion device at the Somerset West explosives installation near Cape Town. 6

Other sources provide different initiation dates for the nuclear weapons program. According to F.W. de Klerk, president of South Africa from 1989 to 1994, the government made the decision to “develop a limited nuclear deterrent capability” as early as 1974. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards officials charged with verifying South Africa’s past nuclear activities likewise corroborated the 1974 date, citing authorization of the program change by then Prime Minister John Vorster. Dr. Waldo Stumpf, former head of the state-controlled Atomic Energy Corporation, stated that the objective of South Africa’s PNE program did not officially change from peaceful to military purposes until 1977. Alternatively, officials from Armaments Corporation (Armscor), South Africa’s state-owned arms manufacturer, maintained that in October 1978, Prime Minister P.W. Botha decided to shift the emphasis of the program to military purposes just one month after taking office. 7 The exact date of the program’s transition aside, Pretoria had begun amassing HEU for weaponization purposes.

South Africa started a uranium enrichment plant at Valindaba, known as the “Y-plant,” in 1974, though Dr. Stumpf put the operational date for the full cascade at March 1977. In 1976, the Soviet Union apparently became sufficiently alarmed at the progress of the South African nuclear program to discuss it with the United States. Deiter Gerhardt, a German national living in South Africa who spied for the Soviet Union, recalled that Soviet officials asked for U.S. cooperation in halting the program. The Soviets allegedly considered a preemptive strike on the Y-plant, an option that U.S. officials reportedly rejected. 8

In 1977, the Atomic Energy Board completed manufacture of South Africa’s first full-scale nuclear explosive device based on a gun-type design. Because the Y-plant had not yet produced sufficient HEU, this maiden device was loaded with a depleted uranium core and slated for a “cold” test in August 1977. A device with an HEU core was to be tested in 1978. As early as 1975, South Africa began preparing two test shafts at the Valstrap military base in the Kalahari Desert. Discovery of the Kalahari test site in August 1977 by Soviet surveillance satellites preempted these tests. 9 After the Soviet Union informed the United States of the situation, South Africa bowed to international pressure, covering the test shafts with concrete slabs and abandoning the site. 10

On 22 September 1979, a U.S. Vela surveillance satellite detected a distinct light event off of Africa’s southern coast. U.S. officials believe that a nuclear test with a yield of 2 to 4 kilotons created this fleeting, intense, double flash of light. South Africa emerged as the prime suspect, but the Pretorian government denied conducting a nuclear test. Stumpf later asserted that South Africa could not have been responsible for the double-flash event since it did not possess a complete nuclear device with HEU until November 1979. Other experts speculated that Israel had tested a nuclear device, either alone or with South Africa. 11

Sometime in the late-1970s, South Africa tested a gun-type device at Building 5000 at the Pelindaba facility. South African nuclear experts considered the test a successful demonstration that the device would operate as projected because the HEU briefly went critical. Afterward, South Africa did not load any nuclear devices with HEU. 12

Drawing on U.S. nuclear safeguards practices, Armscor stored the nuclear and delivery components of South Africa’s nuclear weapons separately. Safeguards protocol allowed the mating of the two components only after four approvals, with one of the authorization codes in the hands of the president. Also, unless taken to a certain altitude onboard a delivery aircraft, South Africa’s nuclear devices would not arm. 13 To deliver the nuclear bombs, South Africa planned to use British Buccaneer bombers, low-level strike aircraft with a general deployment range of approximately 2,000 miles. 14 The range limitations of the Buccaneers spurred South Africa to develop ballistic missiles. 15

Depending on the source consulted, the date when South Africa produced its first complete nuclear explosive device is variously given as April or December 1982. The South African nuclear arsenal subsequently increased at the rate of one device approximately every 18 months. By 1989, South Africa possessed six warheads, each containing 55kg. of HEU. 16

After reviewing the nuclear weapons program in September 1985, President Botha decided to limit the program to seven fission devices. The government then halted all work related to the development of plutonium devices, ceased efforts to produce plutonium and tritium for nuclear weapons, and began to curtail HEU production. 17

Several factors explain Pretoria’s successful acquisition of nuclear arms. First, South Africa became proficient in the uranium production and enrichment process, developing a complete nuclear fuel cycle with advanced waste management techniques. Second, South Africa’s defense industry was sufficiently advanced in manufacturing the necessary delivery components. Third, the nuclear program benefitted from knowledgeable personnel and a well-established foreign procurement network. Finally, South Africa was not overly ambitious, opting for simple, low-cost weapons designs. 18

Motivations and Strategy

An October 1977 U.S. Special National Intelligence Estimate attributed South Africa’s decision to pursue nuclear weapons to the country’s “growing feeling of isolation and helplessness, perceptions of major military threat, and desires for regional prestige” but did not conclude that any country neighboring South Africa posed a serious military threat to Pretoria during the 1970s. 19 With South Africa’s acknowledgment of the program came a more nuanced understanding of its motivations to obtain nuclear weapons and its nuclear doctrine.

By the late 1970s, South Africa’s security environment had deteriorated considerably. The introduction of Cuban forces into Angola and the imposition of a United Nations military embargo intensified South African security concerns. South Africa’s leaders were driven to develop weapons of mass destruction by border insecurity, strong distrust of neighboring countries, doubts about the true intentions of Western powers, and the country’s increasing isolation from the international community because of apartheid and nuclear weapons aspirations. 20

Fearing a direct invasion, or an invasion of South African-controlled Namibia by Soviet-backed forces, Pretoria developed a multi-stage nuclear deterrence strategy. The first stage called for South Africa to keep its nuclear capabilities secret or ambiguous in the absence of hostilities. If the invasion threat elevated, Pretoria would initiate a second stage, confidently indicating its nuclear deterrent capability to one or more of the major powers—such as the United States—in an effort to persuade them to intervene. If this proved unsuccessful, South Africa would publicly declare its nuclear capability. The third stage of the strategy also included, if necessary, a nuclear detonation in an underground or open ocean test to demonstrate the capability. As a last resort, South Africa would threaten the battlefield use of nuclear weapons. 21

A cease-fire between South Africa, Cuba, and Angola in August 1988, and the withdrawal of South African troops from Angola, led to a tripartite agreement between these nations, the withdrawal of 50,000 Cuban troops from Angola, and the independence of Namibia. The improved security of South Africa’s borders proved pivotal to the country’s decision to dismantle the nuclear weapons program. 22

As these developments were unfolding, South African officials publicly alluded to the country’s nuclear weapons capability. In August 1988, Roelof Frederik “Pik” Botha, the South African foreign minister, announced that his nation had “the capability to make one [a nuclear weapon]” should it want to do so. When reporters asked if South Africa already possessed such a device, Botha refused to elaborate on his statement. 23

A month later, in September 1988, the South African government sent a letter to IAEA Director General Hans Blix expressing a willingness to accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) if certain conditions were met, primarily that South Africa be allowed to market its uranium subject to IAEA safeguards. Less than two years later, the de Klerk government terminated the nuclear weapons program. All nuclear devices were dismantled and destroyed. The nuclear materials in Armscor’s possession were returned to the Atomic Energy Corporation, where they were stored according to internationally accepted procedures. Armscor’s facilities were decontaminated and dedicated to non-nuclear commercial purposes. 24 According to Dr. Stumpf, by June 1991, South Africa’s nuclear weapons program was essentially dismantled. 25

On 10 July 1991, South Africa joined the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state. The IAEA subsequently began inspections of South Africa’s nuclear facilities to verify the scope and history of the program and its dismantlement. In a March 1993 speech before the South African parliament, de Klerk announced that South Africa had possessed a nuclear weapons program from as early as 1974 until 1990, during which time it constructed six of seven planned nuclear weapons. The seventh was dismantled before completion. He cited historical, international, and political reasons such as the Soviet expansionist threat in Southern Africa and Cuban forces in Angola to justify South Africa’s decision to obtain nuclear weapons. 26

Post-Disarmament: A Champion of Nonproliferation

Since dismantling its nuclear weapons program, South Africa has become a champion of nuclear nonproliferation efforts. In May 1993, the South African Parliament passed the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction Act, which committed South Africa to abstaining from the development of nuclear weapons. 27 At the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, South African diplomats played a critical role in building consensus among member states to adopt a set of “Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament” and to extending the NPT indefinitely. 28

On 11 April 1996, South Africa and 42 other African states signed the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba); this treaty entered into force in June 2009. In June 1996, South Africa was admitted to the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, and in September South Africa signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. South Africa, one of 44 countries that must ratify the treaty for it to take legal force, did so on 30 March 1999.

The AQ Khan Network and Nuclear Security Concerns

While the South African government adopted strict controls on nuclear trade and joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), South African companies and individuals were important suppliers in A.Q. Khan’s illicit nuclear network. 29 In 2004, South African investigators revealed that the Krisch Engineering Firm had provided nuclear equipment to Pakistan from 1986 to 1995, and along with Tradefin Engineering, had also provided equipment used in gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment to Libya’s nuclear weapons program from 1999 until 2003. 30 South Africa successfully prosecuted some members of the smuggling ring, while others cooperated with authorities to avoid or reduce criminal penalties. 31

In addition to concerns about illicit transfers on controlled dual-use technologies, South Africa has also faced questions about the security of its nuclear facilities. In November 2007, four armed intruders broke into the Pelindaba nuclear facility near Pretoria, where supplies of weapons-grade uranium are stored. The men breached an electronically sealed control room, shot an off-duty worker, and escaped. At the same time, a separate group of intruders was prevented from breaking into another section of the facility. No HEU was stolen, but the break-in demonstrated the vulnerability of the Pelindaba facility. 32 The South African police have yet to arrest the intruders.

Another security breach occurred at the Pelindaba facility in April 2012. While the full details of the incident were not made public, police reported that a break-in and theft took place at a student residence next to the facility, and the nuclear security regulator confirmed that no nuclear or radioactive material was lost or stolen. 33 Nevertheless, the failure of the plant operator to immediately report the incident, and the lack of corrective measures, raised further concerns about the robustness of security at the site. 34

Since the first break-in at the Pelindaba facility in 2007, South Africa has invested millions of dollars and enlisted U.S. assistance to improve on-site security and enhance its regulatory framework. 35 Representing one major step forward, South Africa established a legal requirement that all sites housing nuclear material “be able to protect against a specified [Design Basis Threat].” 36 In addition, South Africa began implementing the IAEA Integrated Nuclear Security Support Plan (INSSP) in 2008. 37 The country also signed and ratified the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM). 38

Recent Developments and Current Status


South Africa is a producer, possessor, and exporter of nuclear materials and technologies. The country still possesses a large quantity of highly enriched uranium (HEU), but has recently made progress in HEU minimization. In 2008, with assistance from the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA) converted the SAFARI-1 research reactor to utilize low enriched uranium (LEU) instead of HEU. The country has also worked to produce the medical isotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) using LEU targets instead of HEU, beginning exports in 2010. In a further step towards HEU minimization, South Africa returned 6.3 kg of U.S.-origin HEU spent fuel to the United States for disposition in 2011. 39

South Africa is a growing producer of nuclear energy. Eskom, the South African energy utility, operates two nuclear power reactors, Koeberg 1 and 2, which together produce 1,800 MWe. 40 As the country strives to meet rapidly growing demand for electricity, the government is looking increasingly to nuclear power as a potential solution. In September 2009, South Africa signed a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States. 41

Currently an overwhelming majority of South Africa’s energy is produced via coal, with only 5% generated by its two existing nuclear power reactors. 42 According to President Jacob Zuma, the country, “expect[s] to conclude the procurement of 9,600 megawatts of nuclear energy” by 2030. 43 According to reports, South Africa plans to take a “fleet approach” to developing its new nuclear energy infrastructure, building multiple plants at once rather than ordering one reactor at a time. 44 Several international companies, including Areva, China General Nuclear Power Group, EDF, KEPCO, Rosatom, Toshiba, and Westinghouse, are keen to invest in South Africa’s planned $37 billion nuclear energy program. 45 As recently as September 2014, Russia and South Africa signed an intergovernmental agreement to solidify a “strategic partnership in the nuclear energy sector,” establishing a channel for cooperation in the development of new power plants outfitted with Russian VVER-type reactors. 46 In July 2015, South Africa signed two Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with Russia’s Rosatom, to provide personnel training and enhance public awareness in South Africa of nuclear energy. 47

Concurrently with this planned growth in nuclear power capacity, South Africa’s nuclear industry is lobbying the government to restart the country’s uranium enrichment program. 48 This program was discontinued during the apartheid period, but supporters argue that reviving it could decrease dependence on foreign enrichment services and benefit local companies. 49

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Glossary

Nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon: A device that releases nuclear energy in an explosive manner as the result of nuclear chain reactions involving fission, or fission and fusion, of atomic nuclei. Such weapons are also sometimes referred to as atomic bombs (a fission-based weapon); or boosted fission weapons (a fission-based weapon deriving a slightly higher yield from a small fusion reaction); or hydrogen bombs/thermonuclear weapons (a weapon deriving a significant portion of its energy from fusion reactions).
Nonproliferation
Nonproliferation: Measures to prevent the spread of biological, chemical, and/or nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. See entry for Proliferation.
Dual-use item
An item that has both civilian and military applications. For example, many of the precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of chemical weapons have legitimate civilian industrial uses, such as the production of pesticides or ink for ballpoint pens.
Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS)
Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS): Under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), NNWS are states that had not detonated a nuclear device prior to 1 January 1967, and who agree in joining the NPT to refrain from pursuing nuclear weapons (that is, all state parties to the NPT other than the United States, the Soviet Union/Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China).
Dismantlement
Dismantlement: Taking apart a weapon, facility, or other item so that it is no longer functional.
Gun-type (nuclear) weapon
Gun-type (nuclear) weapon: A device in which two or more pieces of fissionable material, each smaller than a critical mass, are brought together very rapidly so as to form a supercritical mass which can explode as the result of a rapidly expanding fission chain reaction.
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
The NPT: Signed in 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the most widely adhered-to international security agreement. The “three pillars” of the NPT are nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Article VI of the NPT commits states possessing nuclear weapons to negotiate in good faith toward halting the arms race and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The Treaty stipulates that non-nuclear-weapon states will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, and will accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on their nuclear activities, while nuclear weapon states commit not to transfer nuclear weapons to other states. All states have a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and should assist one another in its development. The NPT provides for conferences of member states to review treaty implementation at five-year intervals. Initially of a 25-year duration, the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995. For additional information, see the NPT.
Deterrence
The actions of a state or group of states to dissuade a potential adversary from initiating an attack or conflict through the credible threat of retaliation. To be effective, a deterrence strategy should demonstrate to an adversary that the costs of an attack would outweigh any potential gains. See entries for Extended deterrence and nuclear deterrence.
Uranium
Uranium is a metal with the atomic number 92. See entries for enriched uranium, low enriched uranium, and highly enriched uranium.
Atoms for Peace
A U.S. program announced by President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the United Nations on 8 December 1953 to share nuclear materials and technology for peaceful purposes with other countries. This program required countries receiving nuclear materials to agree to inspections of the transferred technology to ensure it was not used for military purposes. The program was formally established in 1954, following the passage of the Atomic Energy Act, and ended abruptly in 1974 following India’s first nuclear test.
Highly enriched uranium (HEU)
Highly enriched uranium (HEU): Refers to uranium with a concentration of more than 20% of the isotope U-235. Achieved via the process of enrichment. See entry for enriched uranium.
Nuclear reactor
Nuclear reactor: A vessel in which nuclear fission may be sustained and controlled in a chain nuclear reaction. The varieties are many, but all incorporate certain features, including: fissionable or fissile fuel; a moderating material (unless the reactor is operated on fast neutrons); a reflector to conserve escaping neutrons; provisions of removal of heat; measuring and controlling instruments; and protective devices.
Plutonium (Pu)
Plutonium (Pu): A transuranic element with atomic number 94, produced when uranium is irradiated in a reactor. It is used primarily in nuclear weapons and, along with uranium, in mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. Plutonium-239, a fissile isotope, is the most suitable isotope for use in nuclear weapons.
Enriched uranium
Enriched uranium: Uranium with an increased concentration of the isotope U-235, relative to natural uranium. Natural uranium contains 0.7 percent U-235, whereas nuclear weapons typically require uranium enriched to very high levels (see the definitions for “highly enriched uranium” and “weapons-grade”). Nuclear power plant fuel typically uses uranium enriched to 3 to 5 percent U-235, material that is not sufficiently enriched to be used for nuclear weapons.
Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE)
PNEs are nuclear explosions carried out for non-military purposes, such as the construction of harbors or canals. PNEs are technically indistinguishable from nuclear explosions of a military nature. Although Article V of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) allows for PNEs, no significant peaceful benefits of these explosions (that outweigh the drawbacks), have been discovered. In the Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, the state parties agreed that Article V of the NPT is to be interpreted in light of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which will ban all nuclear explosions, including PNEs, once it enters into force.
Thermonuclear weapon
Thermonuclear weapon: A nuclear weapon in which the fusion of light nuclei, such as deuterium and tritium, leads to a significantly higher explosive yield than in a regular fission weapon. Thermonuclear weapons are sometimes referred to as staged weapons, because the initial fission reaction (the first stage) creates the condition under which the thermonuclear reaction can occur (the second stage). Also archaically referred to as a hydrogen bomb.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
IAEA: Founded in 1957 and based in Vienna, Austria, the IAEA is an autonomous international organization in the United Nations system. The Agency’s mandate is the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, technical assistance in this area, and verification that nuclear materials and technology stay in peaceful use. Article III of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT to accept safeguards administered by the IAEA. The IAEA consists of three principal organs: the General Conference (of member states); the Board of Governors; and the Secretariat. For additional information, see the IAEA.
Safeguards
Safeguards: A system of accounting, containment, surveillance, and inspections aimed at verifying that states are in compliance with their treaty obligations concerning the supply, manufacture, and use of civil nuclear materials. The term frequently refers to the safeguards systems maintained by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in all nuclear facilities in non-nuclear weapon state parties to the NPT. IAEA safeguards aim to detect the diversion of a significant quantity of nuclear material in a timely manner. However, the term can also refer to, for example, a bilateral agreement between a supplier state and an importer state on the use of a certain nuclear technology.

See entries for Full-scope safeguards, information-driven safeguards, Information Circular 66, and Information Circular 153.
Core
The central part of a nuclear reactor where nuclear fission occurs. It contains the fuel, control rods, moderator, coolant, and support structures.
Kiloton
Kiloton: A term used to quantify the energy of a nuclear explosion that is equivalent to the explosion of 1,000 tons of trinitrotoluene (TNT) conventional explosive.
Critical
Critical: A state where the number of neutrons in each period of time, or generation, remains constant. When a nuclear reactor is “steady-state,” or operating at normal power levels for extended periods of time, it is in this state.
Safeguards
Safeguards: A system of accounting, containment, surveillance, and inspections aimed at verifying that states are in compliance with their treaty obligations concerning the supply, manufacture, and use of civil nuclear materials. The term frequently refers to the safeguards systems maintained by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in all nuclear facilities in non-nuclear weapon state parties to the NPT. IAEA safeguards aim to detect the diversion of a significant quantity of nuclear material in a timely manner. However, the term can also refer to, for example, a bilateral agreement between a supplier state and an importer state on the use of a certain nuclear technology.

See entries for Full-scope safeguards, information-driven safeguards, Information Circular 66, and Information Circular 153.
Deployment
The positioning of military forces – conventional and/or nuclear – in conjunction with military planning.
Ballistic missile
A delivery vehicle powered by a liquid or solid fueled rocket that primarily travels in a ballistic (free-fall) trajectory.  The flight of a ballistic missile includes three phases: 1) boost phase, where the rocket generates thrust to launch the missile into flight; 2) midcourse phase, where the missile coasts in an arc under the influence of gravity; and 3) terminal phase, in which the missile descends towards its target.  Ballistic missiles can be characterized by three key parameters - range, payload, and Circular Error Probable (CEP), or targeting precision.  Ballistic missiles are primarily intended for use against ground targets.
Fission bomb
Fission bomb: A nuclear bomb based on the concept of releasing energy through the fission (splitting) of heavy isotopes, such as Uranium-235 or Plutonium-239.
Plutonium (Pu)
Plutonium (Pu): A transuranic element with atomic number 94, produced when uranium is irradiated in a reactor. It is used primarily in nuclear weapons and, along with uranium, in mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. Plutonium-239, a fissile isotope, is the most suitable isotope for use in nuclear weapons.
Fuel Cycle
Fuel Cycle: A term for the full spectrum of processes associated with utilizing nuclear fission reactions for peaceful or military purposes. The “front-end” of the uranium-plutonium nuclear fuel cycle includes uranium mining and milling, conversion, enrichment, and fuel fabrication. The fuel is used in a nuclear reactor to produce neutrons that can, for example, produce thermal reactions to generate electricity or propulsion, or produce fissile materials for weapons. The “back-end” of the nuclear fuel cycle refers to spent fuel being stored in spent fuel pools, possible reprocessing of the spent fuel, and ultimately long-term storage in a geological or other repository.
Spent nuclear fuel
Spent nuclear fuel: Irradiated nuclear fuel. Once irradiated, nuclear fuel is highly radioactive and extremely physically hot, necessitating special remote handling. Fuel is considered “self protecting” if it is sufficiently radioactive that those who might seek to divert it would not be able to handle it directly without suffering acute radiation exposure.
WMD (weapons of mass destruction)
WMD: Typically refers to nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, though there is some debate as to whether chemical weapons qualify as weapons of “mass destruction.”
Deterrence
The actions of a state or group of states to dissuade a potential adversary from initiating an attack or conflict through the credible threat of retaliation. To be effective, a deterrence strategy should demonstrate to an adversary that the costs of an attack would outweigh any potential gains. See entries for Extended deterrence and nuclear deterrence.
Dismantlement
Dismantlement: Taking apart a weapon, facility, or other item so that it is no longer functional.
Nonproliferation
Nonproliferation: Measures to prevent the spread of biological, chemical, and/or nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. See entry for Proliferation.
Treaty of Pelindaba
Treaty of Pelindaba: The Treaty on the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone was opened for signature in Cairo in April 1996. The treaty prohibits the research, development, manufacturing, stockpiling, acquisition, testing, possession, control, and stationing of nuclear explosive devices on any member’s territory. The treaty also prohibits the dumping of radioactive waste originating from outside the continent within the region. In addition, the treaty requires parties to apply International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards to all their peaceful nuclear activities. The treaty also provides for the establishment of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE), which supervises treaty implementation and ensures compliance with its provisions. For additional information, see the ANWFZ.
Entry into force
The moment at which all provisions of a treaty are legally binding on its parties. Every treaty specifies preconditions for its entry into force. For example, the NPT specified that it would enter into force after the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union (the Depository governments) and 40 other countries ratified the treaty, an event that occurred on March 5, 1970. See entries for Signature, Ratification.
Conference on Disarmament (CD)
The CD is an international forum focused on multilateral disarmament efforts. Although it reports to the UN General Assembly and has a relationship with the United Nations, it adopts its own rules of procedure and agenda, giving it some degree of independence. The CD has a permanent agenda devoted to the negotiation of disarmament issues. The CD and its predecessors have negotiated major nonproliferation and disarmament agreements such as the NPT, the BTWC, the CWC, and the CTBT. In recent years, the CD has focused on negotiating a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS); and negative security assurances. For additional information, see the CD.
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
The CTBT: Opened for signature in 1996 at the UN General Assembly, the CTBT prohibits all nuclear testing if it enters into force. The treaty establishes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to ensure the implementation of its provisions and verify compliance through a global monitoring system upon entry into force. Pending the treaty’s entry into force, the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO is charged with establishing the International Monitoring System (IMS) and promoting treaty ratifications. CTBT entry into force is contingent on ratification by 44 Annex II states. For additional information, see the CTBT.
Ratification
Ratification: The implementation of the formal process established by a country to legally bind its government to a treaty, such as approval by a parliament. In the United States, treaty ratification requires approval by the president after he or she has received the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate. Following ratification, a country submits the requisite legal instrument to the treaty’s depository governments Procedures to ratify a treaty follow its signature.

See entries for Entry into force and Signature.
Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)
The NSG was established in 1975, and its members commit themselves to exporting sensitive nuclear technologies only to countries that adhere to strict non-proliferation standards. For additional information, see the NSG.
Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)
The CPPNM: Obliges parties to ensure that during international transport across their territory, or on ships or aircraft under their jurisdiction, civil nuclear materials are protected according to agreed standards. The convention also provides a framework for international cooperation on the protection, recovery, and return of stolen nuclear material, and on the application of criminal sanctions against persons who commit crimes involving nuclear material. The CPPNM opened for signature on 3 March 1980 and entered into force on 8 February 1987. The Amendment to the CPPNM extended the convention’s scope to also cover the physical protection of nuclear material in domestic use, in storage, and during transport, and of nuclear facilities used for peaceful purposes, and provided for additional cooperation between states. For additional information, see the CPPNM.
Research reactor
Research reactor: Small fission reactors designed to produce neutrons for a variety of purposes, including scientific research, training, and medical isotope production. Unlike commercial power reactors, they are not designed to generate power.
Low enriched uranium (LEU)
Low enriched uranium (LEU): Refers to uranium with a concentration of the isotope U-235 that is higher than that found in natural uranium but lower than 20% LEU (usually 3 to 5%). LEU is used as fuel for many nuclear reactor designs.
Radioisotope
Radioisotope: An unstable isotope of an element that decays or disintegrates spontaneously, emitting energy (radiation). Approximately 5,000 natural and artificial radioisotopes have been identified. Some radioisotopes, such as Molybdenum-99, are used for medical applications, such as diagnostics. These isotopes are created by the irradiation of targets in research reactors.
Spent nuclear fuel
Spent nuclear fuel: Irradiated nuclear fuel. Once irradiated, nuclear fuel is highly radioactive and extremely physically hot, necessitating special remote handling. Fuel is considered “self protecting” if it is sufficiently radioactive that those who might seek to divert it would not be able to handle it directly without suffering acute radiation exposure.
Nuclear power plant
Nuclear power plant: A facility that generates electricity using a nuclear reactor as its heat source to provide steam to a turbine generator.

Sources

  1. J.W. De-Villiers, Roger Jardine, and Mitchell Reiss, "Why South Africa Gave Up the Bomb," Foreign Affairs, 72, November/December 1993.
  2. In 1999, South Africa adopted a Nuclear Energy Act that transferred the AEC's commercial responsibilities to a state-owned corporation, the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NESCA), www.nesca.co.za.
  3. Frank V. Pabian, "South Africa's Nuclear Weapon Program: Lessons for U.S. Nonproliferation Policy," The Nonproliferation Review, Fall 1995, p. 2; World Nuclear Association, "Nuclear Power in South Africa," updated September 2010, www.world-nuclear.org.
  4. David Albright, "South Africa and the Affordable Bomb," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 1994, pp. 39-40; Roy E. Horton III, "Out of (South) Africa: Pretoria's Nuclear Weapons Experience," INSS Occasional Paper 27, USAF Institute for National Security Studies, August 1999.
  5. Jack Boureston and Jennifer Lacey, "Shoring Up a Crucial Bridge: South Africa's Pressing Nuclear Choices," Arms Control Today, January/February 2007, www.armscontrol.org.
  6. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Intelligence, "New Information on South Africa's Nuclear Program and South African-Israeli Nuclear and Military Cooperation," 30 March 1983, secret report partially declassified and released on 27 April 1997, www.foia.ucia.gov.
  7. "De Klerk Tells World South Africa Built and Dismantled Six Nuclear Weapons," Nuclear Fuel, 29 (March 1993), p. 7; Adolf Von Baeckmann, Gary Dillon, and Demetrius Perricos, "Nuclear Verification in South Africa," IAEA Bulletin, January 1995, p. 4; Waldo Stumpf, "South Africa's Nuclear Weapons Program: From Deterrence to Dismantlement," Arms Control Today 25, December 1995/January 1996, pp. 5-8; Mark Hibbs, "South Africa's Secret Nuclear Program: From a PNE to a Deterrent," Nuclear Fuel 10, May 1993, p. 4; David Albright, "A Curious Conversion," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, June 1993.
  8. David Albright, "South Africa and the Affordable Bomb," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 1994, pp. 41-42.
  9. Mitchell Reiss, "South Africa: Castles in the Air," in Bridled Ambition: Why Countries Constrain Their Nuclear Capabilities (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center, 1995), p. 10. See also J.W. De-Villiers, Roger Jardine, and Mitchell Reiss, "Why South Africa Gave Up The Bomb," Foreign Affairs 72, November/December 1993.
  10. Mitchell Reiss, "South Africa: Castles in the Air," in Bridled Ambition: Why Countries Constrain Their Nuclear Capabilities (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center, 1995), p. 10; U.S. Mission to the U.N., "News Coverage," 29 August 1977, unclassified memorandum released, Digital National Security Archive, http://nsarchive.chadwyck.com; U.S. Department of State, "Your Meeting with Gromyko: South African Nuclear Issues," 21 September 1977, secret memorandum partially declassified and released, Digital National Security Archive, http://nsarchive.chadwyck.com; U.S. Mission to the U.N., "Non-proliferation Issues at the 32nd UNGA: South Africa Nuclear Issues," 6 October 1977, confidential memorandum partially declassified and released, http://nsarchive.chadwyck.com.
  11. Waldo Stumpf, "South Africa: Nuclear Technology and Nonproliferation," Security Dialogue4 (1993), p. 458; David Albright and Corey Gay, "A Flash from the Past," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November/December 1997; David Albright, "South Africa and the Affordable Bomb," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 1994, p. 42.
  12. David Albright, "South Africa and the Affordable Bomb," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 1994, p. 42. On theories regarding South African-Israeli nuclear cooperation, see Peter Liberman, "Israel and the South African Bomb," The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2004.
  13. J.W. De-Villiers, Roger Jardine, and Mitchell Reiss, "Why South Africa Gave Up the Bomb," Foreign Affairs 72, November/December 1993.
  14. William Green, The Observer's Book of Aircraft (London: Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd., 1968).
  15. David Albright, "South Africa's Nuclear Program," Seminar, MIT Security Studies Program, 14 March 2001.
  16. David Albright, "South Africa's Secret Nuclear Weapons," ISIS Report, 10 May 1994, www.isis-online.org; Mark Hibbs, "South Africa's Secret Nuclear Program: From a PNE to Deterrent," Nuclear Fuel, 10 May 1993, p. 5; Mitchell Reiss, "South Africa: Castles in the Air," in Bridled Ambition: Why Countries Constrain Their Nuclear Capabilities (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center, 1995), p. 11; Waldo Stumpf, "South Africa's Nuclear Weapons Program: From Deterrence to Dismantlement," Arms Control Today 25, December 1995/January 1996, p. 5; Adolf Von Baeckmann, Gary Dillon, and Demetrius Perricos, "Nuclear Verification in South Africa." IAEA Bulletin, January 1995, p. 42.
  17. Waldo Stumpf, "South Africa's Nuclear Weapons Program: From Deterrence to Dismantlement," Arms Control Today 25, December 1995/January 1996, p. 6; David Albright, "Nuclear Rollback: Understanding South Africa's Denuclearization Decision," in Barry R. Schneider and William L. Downdy, eds., Pulling Back from the Nuclear Brink (London: Frank Cass 1998); Adolf Von Baeckmann, Gary Dillon, and Demetrius Perricos, "Nuclear Verification in South Africa," IAEA Bulletin, January 1995, p. 45; Mark Hibbs, "South Africa's Secret Nuclear Program: From a PNE to a Deterrent," Nuclear Fuel, May 10, 1993, p. 4; Mitchell Reiss, "South Africa: Castles in the Air," in Bridled Ambition: Why Countries Constrain Their Nuclear Capabilities (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center, 1995), p. 16.
  18. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, "South African Enrichment Program," August 1977, p. 458, www.gwu.edu.
  19. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Intelligence, "Prospects for Further Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," 2 October 1974, classified interagency intelligence memorandum, partially declassified and released, Digital National Security Archive, http://nsarchive.chadwyck.com.
  20. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Intelligence, "Prospects for Further Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," 2 October 1974, classified interagency intelligence memorandum, partially declassified and released, Digital National Security Archive, http://nsarchive.chadwyck.com; Verne Harris, Sello Hatang, and Peter Liberman, "Unveiling South Africa's Nuclear Past," Journal of Southern African Studies, 30 September 2004, p. 463.
  21. Peter Liberman, "The Rise and Fall of the South African Bomb," International Security 26, no. 2, Fall 2001.
  22. David Albright, "Nuclear Rollback: Understanding South Africa's Denuclearization Decision," in Barry R. Schneider and William L. Downdy, eds., Pulling Back from the Nuclear Brink (London: Frank Cass, 1998).
  23. "Pretoria Says It Can Build A-Arms," The New York Times, 14 August 1988.
  24. "South Africa's Nuclear Weapons Program: Putting Down the Sword," Nuclear Weapons Archive, 7 September 2001, http://nuclearweaponarchive.org.
  25. Waldo Stumpf, The Birth and Death of the South African Nuclear Weapons Programme, "50 Years After Hiroshima" Conference, Castiglioncello, Italy, 1995. For text, see Federation of American Scientists, www.fas.org.
  26. J.W. De-Villiers, Roger Jardine, and Mitchell Reiss, "Why South Africa Gave Up the Bomb," Foreign Affairs, 72, November/December 1993.
  27. "Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction Act 87 of 1993," South African Council for the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, www.dti.gov.za. For information on South Africa's other WMD nonproliferation efforts, see the country's report to the UN Resolution 1540 Committee: "Note verbale dated 31 January 2005 from the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations Addressed to the Chairman of the Committee," UN Security Council, 1 February 2005, S/AC.44/2004/(02)/102.
  28. Jeff Erlich and Theresa Hitchens, "S. Africa Shines as Policy Beacon," Defense News, 12-18 June 1995, p. 1; South Africa, Department of Foreign Affairs, "Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)," www.dfa.gov.za.
  29. For information on South Africa's WMD nonproliferation efforts, see the country's report to the UN Resolution 1540 Committee: "Note verbale dated 31 January 2005 from the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations Addressed to the Chairman of the Committee," UN Security Council, 1 February 2005, S/AC.44/2004/(02)/102.
  30. Adam P. Williams, "South Africa, Germany Announce Significant Developments in Prosecution of Suspected Khan Network Participants," WMD Insights, December 2007-January 2008, www.wmdinsights.com.
  31. Adam P. Williams, "Special Report: The A.Q. Khan Network," WMD Insights, January 2010, www.wmdinsights.com.
  32. Graeme Hosken, "Security breached," The Times (South Africa), 12 July 2012, www.timeslive.co.za.
  33. Graeme Hosken, "Security breached," The Times (South Africa), 12 July 2012, www.timeslive.co.za.
  34. Sarah Wild, "SA nuclear corporation in hot water over 'breach of security,'" Business Day (South Africa), 9 July 2012.
  35. Matthew Bunn et al., "Advancing Nuclear Security: Evaluating Progress and Setting New Goals," The Project on Managing the Atom, March 2014, p. 15, http://Belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu.
  36. Matthew Bunn et al., "Advancing Nuclear Security: Evaluating Progress and Setting New Goals," The Project on Managing the Atom, March 2014, p. 15, http://Belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu.
  37. Nuclear Security Summit 2014, "National Report of the Republic of South Africa," Progress Reports, 2014, http://nss2014.com; Matthew Bunn et al., "Advancing Nuclear Security: Evaluating Progress and Setting New Goals," The Project on Managing the Atom, March 2014, p. 15, http://Belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu.
  38. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, "National Statement," International Conference on the Nuclear Security in the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA , Vienna, 1 July 2013, IAEA.org; "Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Last modified 19 January 2015, www.iaea.org.
  39. "NNSA Announces Return of U.S.-Origin Highly Enriched Uranium Spent Fuel from South Africa," Press Release, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), 17 August 2011, http://nnsa.energy.gov.
  40. World Nuclear Association, "Nuclear Power in South Africa," Updated September 2010, www.world-nuclear.org.
  41. "U.S.- South Africa Sign Agreement on Cooperation in Nuclear Energy Field," U.S. Department of State Press Release, 16 September 2009, http://southafrica.usembassy.gov.
  42. World Nuclear Association, "Nuclear Power in South Africa," Updated September 2014, world-nuclear.org.
  43. Mike Cohen, "South Africa Nuclear Energy Program to Proceed, Zuma Says," Bloomberg, 14 February 2014, Blooberg.com; Minister of Energy Dikobe Ben Martins, "Opening address delivered at the Nuclear Africa Conference 2014," Nuclear Africa Conference 2014, Midrand, South Africa, 20 March 2014.
  44. Sikonathi Mantshantsha, "Nuclear project going ahead, bidders to be invited," BDlive (South Africa), 13 February 2014, http://bdlive.co.za.
  45. Mike Cohen, "South Africa Nuclear Energy Program to Proceed, Zuma Says," Bloomberg, 14 February 2014, Blooberg.com.
  46. Alexandr Kondratyuk, "Russia, South Africa Agree Cooperation in Nuclear Energy," RiaNovosti, 20 September 2014, http://en.ria.ru.
  47. "S.A. Russia sign energy agreements," South African News, last modified 9 July 2015, www.sanews.gov.za.
  48. Carli Lourens, "South Africa Flirts with Plan to Enrich Own Uranium," Johannesburg Business Daily, 28 August 2006. See also, Joseph Cirincione, et al., Deadly Arsenals, Second Edition (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005), pp. 411-412.
  49. Wendell Roelf, "S. Africa considers nuclear fuel cycle facilities," Reuters, 2 April 2012, www.reuters.com; Samuel Mungadze, "State urged to revive uranium enrichment," The Herald (South Africa), 21 March 2013.

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