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Focus on nuclear safety as African states gather for course

Health & Science
 Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority Director General James Keter with Mr Enobot Agboraw, the executive secretary of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy. [File, Standard]

Nuclear safety and radiation protection will take centre stage as experts, regulators and other critical state agencies from Africa meet in Nairobi this week.

The Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA) will host a regional training course on the security of radioactive materials, where 29 individuals from African countries will participate.

Participants are drawn from nuclear regulation authorities, security agencies and operators.

The weeklong training running from today up to Friday will, among other things, seek to equip participants with skills vital for building robust regulatory frameworks.

“The course will focus on the security of radioactive sources under regulatory control and aims to provide participants with a comprehensive understanding of the implementation of a nuclear security regime in their own countries and organisations,” a brief from KNRA indicated.

KNRA Director General James Keter will open the course at Nairobi’s Weston Hotel. Mr Keter yesterday told the press that experts leading the course are drawn from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the US, Kenya and Nigeria.

Participants will be tipped on the security of radioactive material in use and storage, with objective of enhancing the national programmes for regulating radioactive source security in their respective countries.

“In everything we do, protection of lives and the environment must be at the core of it. We believe constant capacity building and collaborations are way to go in addressing inherent challenges and improving our regulatory capacities,” Keter said.

This week’s course follows another continental forum that Kenya hosted in June 2023 attended by 22 African countries that explored ways and means of raising awareness and ensuring safety in the use of radiation and nuclear technology.

And in April, the US government hosted a major conference at which countries, including Kenya and Ghana, discussed the need to establish nuclear power programmes that adhere to the highest standards of security, safety and non-proliferation.

With the IAEA stewardship, countries have been sharing experiences in expanding their nuclear programmes in what experts say is a significant leap forward in having distinguished scientists, politicians and regulators discuss opportunities and challenges in nuclear safety and radiation protection.

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.

Besides recent moves by Kenya to establish various partnerships, including those with Excel Corporation in the US, the Canadian nuclear regulator and recently South Korea, it has an MoU 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.

The project has been proving capacity building to nearly 20 partner countries seeking to build or expand their nuclear energy programmes to meet clean energy needs consistent with the highest nuclear security, safety, and nonproliferation standards.

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