This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Nuclear Practice Still Healthy, Peaceful

interview

THE ACTING DIRECTOR GENERAL OF NIGERIAN NUCLEAR REGULATORY AUTHORITY (NNRA), DR. MARTIN OGHARANDUKUN WHOSE CHIEF RESPONSIBILITY IS TO KEEP THE COUNTRY'S NUCLEAR APPLICATIONS SAFE AND HEALTHY TOLD CHINEME OKAFOR IN THIS INTERVIEW THAT THE COUNTRY WOULD NOT REST ON ITS OARS IRRESPECTIVE OF HER HEALTHY AND PEACEFUL NUCLEAR APPLICATION PRACTICES

NNRA mandate...

By the Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Act 19 of 1995, NNRA has the responsibility for nuclear safety and radiological protection regulation in Nigeria. NNRA thus regulates all practices involving ionizing radiation and the sources within those practices

The world has about 60 years of the operation of nuclear power plants and in this time, we have seen many countries with good safety records. However, we have also witnessed some accidents with significant onsite and offsite consequences. The most important thing is to have an independent regulatory body to exercise oversight of the use of nuclear power. A regulator is not an advocate of any system or technology; rather, it ensures that any technology adopted complies with the requirements for safety, security and safeguards. Furthermore, the decision to introduce nuclear energy is usually made at a political level.

NNRA's regulatory capacity...

Capacity development is a continuous process. It should be noted that NNRA has been effectively exercising its regulatory oversight of the nuclear sector in Nigeria since its inception in 2001. With the advent of the Nuclear Power Programme (NPP), Nigeria has ratified some international treaties and conventions relevant to a successful NPP.

This has necessitated further capacity development and the strengthening of legal and regulatory framework for NPP regulation. Thus, the Act establishing the NNRA has been reviewed in line with our national obligations under these international legal instruments.

Furthermore and in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Nigeria has a technical cooperation project on developing capabilities for regulatory oversight of NPP since 2009. Under this project, we have amongst others given our regulatory officers the basic professional training in NPP oversight. Furthermore, our senior regulators have been awarded fellowships and scientific visits on the licensing of new NPP projects as special on-the-job training for regulatory inspection of NPP under construction. We have also had several IAEA advisory missions in relation to the regulatory requirements for licensing of sites for NPP.

Lessons from Fukushima nuclear...

No human endeavour is totally immune from mishaps. The lessons from Fukushima are still unfolding and Nigeria has been participating with other members of the IAEA in the assessment of the situation.

Threats of radioactive material in the country...

NNRA has in place effective regulatory control measures through the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources Regulations, 2006 which amongst others, covers import-export controls. It also provides adequate requirements for the physical protection of radioactive sources, which must be complied with by all licensees. We implement this in close collaboration with the Nigeria Customs Service and other security agencies.

NNRA along with other national stakeholders have been carrying out Design Basis Threat (DBT) analyses of radiological and nuclear facilities with a view to further enhance physical security.

Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited...

It is important to note that responsibility for safety and security of radioactive sources in any facility lies with the facility owner. Since the discovery of the legacy radioactive sources in 2004, NNRA has emplaced a program of regular inspections for the purpose of continuous assessment of the safety and security of the sources.

Our further efforts have led the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, to set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee to establish necessary liaison with relevant countries to facilitate the repatriation of the sources and determine the methodology for their handling and evacuation.

The radioactive sources at ASCL originated from the former USSR. The original manufacturer of the sources was situated in one of the present republics that emerged from the former USSR. Presently, the company no longer exists. At the time the sources were imported to Nigeria, there was no regulatory body and the sources were not under regulatory control.

Utilisation of radioactive material in Nigeria...

Nigeria has peaceful nuclear applications in several fields and nuclear materials and radioactive sources are used in several sectors of the Nigerian economy. These include the petroleum industry for well logging, radio-tracing and industrial radiography. The health sector for radiotherapy, diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine, manufacturing industry for various gauges, construction industry, industrial radiography and density gauges and in education and research among others

There technical meeting aimed at addressing challenges posed by increased use of ionizing radiation in the sector, which required a constructive engagement between the operators and the NNRA on Safety, Security and radiation protection. The challenges include among others, the risk of loss of control that could result in unintended exposure effects.

The meeting provided a forum for both the operators and the NNRA to appreciate the challenges and called for appropriate action by the operators to ensure the safety and security of radioactive sources through strict adherence to regulatory requirements.

Status of diagnostic radiology and radiotherapy centres...

NNRA survey of diagnostic radiology centres throughout the country showed that there were over 3,000 X-ray units in the country amongst other diagnostic equipment. At the moment, less than 20 per cent of these are under regulatory control and efforts are ongoing to bring them all under our control. Regarding radiotherapy, NNRA has made several interventions in the course of our regular preauthorisation and compliance inspections. Presently, NNRA is conducting audit inspections of all radiotherapy centres in Nigeria.

Need for new laws for NNRA...

Not necessarily. However, the ratification of some international treaties and conventions in the realm of safety, security and safeguards has necessitated the review of the NNRA Act to accommodate our obligations under these instruments. The bill arising there from has been submitted to our supervising ministry for transmission to the National Assembly for consideration and passage into law.

Nigerians are generally aware of the NNRA, but this public awareness can be improved upon.

Synergy between NNRA and others...

The NNRA collaborates with different government agencies as the need arises. The National Nuclear Security Committee was set up by the then President in 2003 to strengthen the enforcement of the Act and other regulatory instruments. The committee has representatives from eleven ministries and government agencies, including law the law enforcement agencies.

Risk for air travellers...

The atmosphere provides some shielding from cosmic radiation; therefore the closer we get to outer space, the more we are exposed to this radiation. For the same reasons, we are exposed to higher levels of cosmic radiation when we fly on commercial airplanes. We have no control over cosmic or other natural sources of radiation. Radiation from other man-made sources and processes is of more regulatory concern.

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