Workers pass by a new power unit under construction at the Novovoronezh NPP-2 nuclear power station, operated by OAO Rosenergoatom, a unit of Rosatom. Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg
Cape Town – Russian state-owned nuclear group Rosatom said on Tuesday it has inked an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to help fund programmes run by the UN watchdog to assist countries planning to introduce or expand nuclear energy generation in terms of safety and regulatory systems.

"Under the Contribution Agreement, Rosatom will provide a financial contribution of up to $1.8 million and an in-kind contribution of up to RUB 109.5 million over the next three years to IAEA programmes on nuclear infrastructure development," the company said.

Rosatom CEO Alexey Likhachev said this would include nuclear training, the development of industry regulations and analysis of safety facilities, according to a statement issued on behalf of Rosatom's office in Johannesburg.

"We ensure succession with the aim to boost joint projects, we keep on increasing financing. Considering this, we take upon ourselves certain tasks while also determining these tasks for our cooperation with the IAEA. The point of the tasks is active work with newcomer countries, those that join the nuclear power club," he added.

The Vienna-based IAEA's Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section operates a technical co-ordination programme through which it provides support to member states embarking on new nuclear power programmes or expanding existing ones.

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According to the IAEA, some 30 countries are currently considering, planning or starting such a programme.

Rosatom is seen as a strong contender to secure a contract to build new nuclear reactors in South Africa.

The contested nuclear build programme, which will be driven by Eskom, aims to add 9 600 megawatts of nuclear power to the national energy grid, though critics say the country does not need and cannot afford more nuclear reactors.

Eskom is expected to issue a request for binding proposals from potential vendors by the end of June.