Kenya to host high-level course on nuclear and radiation safety

Prof Augustine Faanu of Ghana Nuclear Regulatory Authority, Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority Director General James Keter and a KNRA nuclear inspector Judith Okoth at a meeting in Nairobi on Monday. [Courtesy]

Kenya has been picked to host a special post-graduate training in nuclear and radiation safety covering English-speaking African countries.

Kenyatta University and 10 other local higher education institutions have expressed interest in taking lead roles in the five-month programme from October 2023.

The course spearheaded by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an affiliate of the United Nations, targets professionals at graduate level or equivalent.

On Monday, the IAEA deployed a special team to Nairobi to evaluate the country's preparedness to host the training. This will be the first time Kenya is hosting the programme after Ghana that has hosted it 12 times.

The team met at a Nairobi hotel where participants made a case for Kenya, saying a number of local universities have fully-fledged departments already running nuclear physics and nuclear science and technology programmes with equipped laboratories.

Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority Director General James Keter said Kenya is privileged to host the training, coming at a time efforts are being made to ensure safe and secure utilisation of nuclear technology.

"Kenya feels privileged. We have put together a qualified team to help steer the programme. We searched far and wide and even headhunted some of the experts to steer this first of a kind post-graduate training," Mr Keter said.

He added: "The journey towards the start of the programme started 12 months ago. We will work with the agency to deliver a comprehensive programme."

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Dr Nadir Hashim of Kenyatta University's Nuclear Science and Technology Programme gave a preview of equipment, laboratories and facilities run by the institution, which would be used to facilitate the post-graduate programme.

Prof Augustine Faanu, the director of radiological and non-ionising directorate of the Ghana Nuclear Regulatory Authority expressed confidence that the programme will be off to a good start.

"We are here to evaluate what Kenya has on the ground ahead of October when the programme is to start," he said.

IAEA runs several other capacity-building programmes, including an internet reactor lab that enables students from Kenya, Tanzania, Tunisia and South Africa to get online access to the facilities of a research reactor in Morocco for nuclear education and training.

The October course, according to IAEA, targets university graduates in physics, chemistry, life sciences or engineering with practical experience of radiation protection and the safe use of radiation sources. The initial intake will see at least 25 students admitted.

The trainings, among other things, helps countries get the expertise needed in building a robust regulatory framework for the oversight of nuclear power plants. Kenya hopes to have its first nuclear power plant in 2038.

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