Representatives from African countries have made a case for political goodwill in efforts to ensure safety and security in the utilisation of nuclear technology.
Participants, mainly drawn from nuclear regulatory authorities in 23 African countries, including Kenya, also called for harmonisation of laws, saying it will allow a coordinated approach in addressing safety and security challenges.
They spoke yesterday at a forum in Nairobi on the implementation of international safety standards and the code of conduct on the safety and security of radioactive sources convened by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEI) and the Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA).
At the heart of the forum were discussions around the implementation of IAEA safety standards and code of conduct on the safety and security of radioactive sources, including the supplementary guidance.
The code developed by the Agency provides guidance to member States on regulatory systems that should be put in place to provide for the protection of the persons and environment from the harmful effects of radiation.
KNRA Director General James Keter Chumba, who opened the forum, said Kenya was committed to honouring IAEA safety standards and code of conduct. He said the country would share its experiences and learn from other nations across the region.
He said that in Africa, there had been a significant rise in the use and peaceful application of nuclear technology in various crucial sectors including health, agriculture, industry, teaching and research.
“However, the use of radioactive sources has brought with it some challenges that include the likelihood of the resources getting out of regulatory control and therefore posing a risk to public safety and security,” he said.
Mr Keter added: “All we need right now is the extra knowledge and capacity to catch up with technology. IAEA is striving to give a level playing field and all we should do is to use the code as the bible in our work.”
He urged countries to address gaps that could lead to threats of misuse of nuclear and radioactive material. “Countries should speak the same language – that of protecting people so that the inherent risks do not overwhelm us.”
IAEA expert Olga Makarovska called for enhanced technical cooperation among nations. “We expect that you will actively exchange ideas in a manner that helps build competence among the regulators,” she said.
Officials of the countries represented made a case for cross-border collaborations, saying enhancing safety across the world calls for close collaboration.
Such collaborations include a recent MoU Kenya signed with US signed under the framework of the Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST Project), an initiative originating from US President Joe Biden’s 2021 Leaders’ Summit on Climate.
Countries taking part in the ongoing talks in Nairobi include Libya, Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Lesotho, Nigeria, Senegal, Zambia, Benin and Cameroon among others.
KNRA, a successor of the Radiation Protection Board, is charged with providing protection of persons, property and the environment against the harmful effects of radiation.