Kenya on course to becoming Africa's nuclear training hub

Omondi Anyanga, Chairman Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA) addresses KDF personnel during a training on nuclear safety in Ololua, Kajiado. [Nanjinia Wamuswa, Standard]

Kenya is stamping its authority as a regional leader in nuclear training to help solve some of Africa's teething problems.

Last Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an affiliate of the United Nations, gave the country the greenlight to host a special post-graduate training in nuclear and radiation safety.

The training covers English-speaking African countries.

This was after an IAEA-led mission, comprising experts from Ghana and Greece, deployed to Kenya to evaluate the country's ability to host the course returned a positive verdict. It will be the first time that Kenya is hosting the programme after Ghana that has had it 12 times.

The five-month course spearheaded by IAEA and which targets professionals at graduate level or equivalent will start in October this year.

The Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA) will be the 'vision bearer' of the programme and will oversee course preparations in a process where Kenyatta University, Multimedia University, and 10 other institutions will take lead roles.

The universities and selected hospitals have pledged to offer logistical support, including in areas such as lecturer halls, labs and accommodation for course participants, local and international who will get full IAEA funding.

The team observed that Kenya had a number of local universities with fully-fledged labs and departments offering physics and nuclear science and technology programmes. It, however, challenged KNRA and relevant stakeholders to ensure adequate facilities for practical sessions.

It also called on the authority to ensure availability of nuclear demonstration equipment. One of the gaps pointed out was lack of expertise in some topics, with Kenya being urged to reach out to the IAEA for support.

Nuclear experts Sotiris Economides of Greece and Ghana's Prof Augustine Faanu who had led the week-long mission presented their findings to KNRA officials led by Director General James Keter, Director Licensing and Standards Shadrack Kiti, Director for Partnerships and Public Awareness, Dr Sitawa Wattanga representing Multimedia University, Dr Nadir Hashim of Kenyatta University and officials from the Kenyatta National Hospital and the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA).

Mr Keter said Kenya is privileged to host the training, coming at a time that efforts are being made to ensure safe and secure utilisation of nuclear technology. "It is historic. This will go a long way in building capacity for radiation protection. The journey started 12 months ago. We will work with the agency to deliver a comprehensive programme," he said.

NuPEA Acting CEO Justus Wabuyabo said Kenya would continuously pursue knowledge that will add value to its nuclear programmes.

"Kenya has the potential to emerge as a regional excellence centre for nuclear education," Mr Wabuyabo said in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Peter Ndug'u who also represented the programme's national liaison office. Keter added: "Kenya feels privileged. We have put together a qualified team to help steer the programme. We have searched far and wide and even headhunted some of the experts to steer this first of a kind post-graduate training."

KNRA chairman Omondi Anyanga welcomed IAEA's verdict on Kenya and said: "We are prepared to go the long haul. Part of our determination is to ensure we fully harness nuclear technology. Young Kenyan professionals should take a keen interest in the programme. The world has gone nuclear and Kenya has to be part of the journey," he said.

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