"To construct a research reactor, there are a lot of processes which are involved, including the international atomic energy approvals as well as a legal framework, which is being considered in this sitting of the Zambian parliament. So once a legislation is put in place by parliament, that will pave way for actual works to commence in 2019 in earnest," Luwita said.
He added that a great deal of work had already been done, in particular, an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) agreement had been signed and the site for the construction of the reactor had been chosen.
The diplomat revealed that the Zambian government had set up a special steering committee which would spearhead the construction of the research reactor.
Luwita explained that the research reactor, which would be producing isotopes, would enable the country to abandon isotopes imports from India and South Africa and will even permit the exports of Zambian isotopes to neighboring countries.
"In addition to that, one of the laboratories will be used for the irradiation of crops and this will give us an opportunity for various types of crops which are grown in Zambia to be exported to the Russian market, to the European Union, and indeed to the United States," Luwita said.water-cooled reactor with a capacity of 10MW. The center is expected to include a laboratory complex, multipurpose irradiation center, and a cyclotron-based nuclear medicine center.
ATOMEXPO Construction Agreement
The ambassador also noted that the countries would most likely sign an agreement on the construction of a nuclear power plant in the African state during the 11th ATOMEXPO international forum, due to be organized by Russia's Rosatom state corporation next April.
"[The agreement] is something in the very, very near future. The first thing is to commence the construction of the center for nuclear science and technology… Most likely… these agreements are signed when Rosatom is hosting the [ATOMEXPO] international nuclear forum… We are most likely to see the signing of the agreement for the construction of a nuclear power plant [at the next forum]," Luwita said.
According to the ambassador, the implementation of the project to construct a nuclear research reactor and a center for nuclear science on the reactor's base, valued at over $100 million, will pave the way for the document's signing.
"First of all, you start with the reactor, on whose basis you are able to develop capacity and have the necessary trained manpower, which can be able to implement a nuclear power plant," Luwita stated.
Luwita added that the construction of the nuclear science and technology center should remain on track.
"All things being equal, I think everything will be on course. They should be able to meet the time frames, which have been set up," Luwita believed.
The ATOMEXPO international forum is a major event in the world's nuclear field, which has been held on an annual basis since 2009. The forum provides an occasion for the discussion of the current state of the nuclear field and sets the trends for the nuclear sphere further development. The ATOMEXPO-2019 is expected to be held in April.
Presidential Visit to Russia
Luwita also told Sputnik that Zambian leader Edgar Lungu is expected to make an official state visit to Russia at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2019, as soon as all the details of his trip are harmonized.
"[The visit's organization] is now incumbent upon the technocrats in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Zambia, [they] started working on the modalities to concretize when President Lungu can undertake the state visit to Russia. We are working flat out to ensure that this is realized as quickly as possible. The year is already almost ending so definitely we anticipate that in the course of next year, as early as possible, this state visit should be realized," he stated.
The diplomat added that Russia was a great friend of Africa, adding that the countries of the continent were interested in developing relations for the benefit of their economies.
"There is enormous potential in this country in terms of technology, there are enormous resources, which, once partnered with the African continent in various economic sectors, will transform into the development of the African continent so that Africa is no longer dependent on aid," Luwita indicated.
In this regard, the ambassador welcomed the signing of the memorandum of understanding between the SADC and Russia that took place within the forum's framework on Tuesday.
"This has come at an optimal time… It is a panacea to opening up investment opportunities in the SADC countries. As you are aware, it has been the considered view of the heads of state of the African continent on the need of the Russian government, on one hand, and indeed of Russian investors… to transform these excellent political relations into economic benefits, which are going to benefit both the African people as well as the Russian people," Luwita said.
The organization was established in 1980 as the Southern African Development Coordination Conference, and transformed into SADC in 1992. It currently comprises 16 states and aims to promote socio-economic, political and security cooperation in the region.