Two legal experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are in Rwanda for a three-day mission to train Rwandan officials about the international legal framework on how to ensure nuclear safety, security, and civil liability for nuclear damage.
Attended by about 25 officials and experts from different Rwandan institutions, the training is being conducted in Kigali from Monday this week as the country gears up for nuclear technology.
The country adopted its national legal framework in 2017 by enacting a law on the use of nuclear energy and has since moved to raise awareness about the use of nuclear technologies.
The aim of the workshop is to raise awareness among many experts from several ministries and other government institutions on the importance of understanding and adhering to international legal instruments in the areas of nuclear safety, security and civil liability for nuclear damage.
The Director-General of Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), Patrick Nyirishema, said at the launch of the training yesterday that Rwandans need a lot of support in the area of nuclear technology as the country recently moved to adopt and develop its use.
"Rwanda has recently embarked on this journey and needs a lot of support," he said, explaining that understanding the legal, policy, and regulatory framework for atomic energy is a good start.
In 2011, Rwanda became a full member of IAEA with an aim to achieve safe, secure, and peaceful use of atomic energy.
But the country is not yet party to international legal instruments adopted under IAEA, including the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency, and the Convention on Nuclear Safety.
Among the legal instruments include the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, as well as Relevant nuclear liability instruments such as the Protocol to Amend the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage and Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage.
The discussions at the training in Kigali will also focus on those international legal instruments adopted under IAEA auspices to which Rwanda is not yet a party.
Many participants at the workshop welcomed the training as a good opportunity to learn more about how to ensure safe use of nuclear technologies in different areas, including medicine, agriculture, and electricity generation among other uses.
One of them, Prof. Emmanuel Rudakemwa, who is a medical doctor at King Faisal Hospital in Kigali and teaches radiology at universities in Rwanda, told journalists that using nuclear radiation at hospitals remains a safety hazard if it isn't properly handled.
"This workshop means that they (the government) are putting frameworks in place to ensure that the utilisation of nuclear technology is safe," he said.
He explained that radiation is normally a cancer inducing agent and that a few members of the medical fraternity were negatively affected as part of exposure to too much radiation while treating patients.
"There has to be an appropriate infrastructure," he said on the safe use of nuclear technologies.
As for Jean de Dieu Tuyisenge, Director of Radiation Safety Regulation at RURA, what is important at the moment in Rwanda is to raise awareness about the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
"It's time that Rwandans know that nuclear technology can be used for many good purposes and right here at home. Rwandans need to know that there is another open window they can use to achieve their goals in a short time," he said.
Nuclear technology is used for different peaceful purposes, including in medicine to treat patients through radiation and other means, in agriculture to develop crop seeds and process produce for long term uses, in manufacturing to control machines, and in electricity generation.
The Energy Division Manager at the Rwandan Ministry of Infrastructure, Robert Nyamvumba, told The New Times last month that Rwanda was looking to set up a Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology (CNST) within the next five years.