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Nuclear safety tops agenda as Kenya hosts experts

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

Kenya will tomorrow host a regional forum meant to explore ways and means of raising awareness and ensuring safety in the use of nuclear technology.

The outcome of the talks will help put in place better regulatory infrastructure to control radiation sources used in the various applications.

At the heart of the talks will be the need for sustained research, education and public sensitization around the applications of nuclear, especially in health, security and energy.

The meeting comes in the wake of calls for cross-border collaborations in stemming the smuggling of dangerous nuclear material through the borders.

Hosted by the Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the forums will bring together experts from 22 countries, some of whom are considering, planning or starting nuclear power programmes.

Countries taking part in the talks include Libya, Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Lesotho, Nigeria, Senegal, Zambia, Benin and Cameroon among others.

According to the conveners, discussions will centre 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 the 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.

The code's provisions relating to the security of radioactive sources were strengthened in the light of the events of the September 11 terrorism attack in the US. Some provisions of the code relate to import and export controls on radioactive and nuclear materials states are expected to include in their regulatory infrastructure.

The meeting will be opened by Mr James Keter Chumba, the Director General of KNRA. Yesterday, Mr Keter acknowledge posed by proliferation and other unauthorized acts involving nuclear and radioactive materials, saying regional efforts should be sustained to ensure protection of persons.

"Properly done, everyone wins," Mr Keter said, adding that the authority would explore collaborations with various countries and actors to ensure effective regulatory controls are in place.

"As the regulator, we endeavour to build capacity and competency to ensure that the safety of nuclear application in power production is guaranteed. We are engaging with the best in the industry and regulatory stakeholders to assure the public of the highest safety possible under the latest industry standards," he said.

KNRA, a successor of the Radiation Protection Board, is charged with providing protection of persons, property and the environment against harmful effects of radiation.

"We hope to learn from the rest of the world with a view to achieving unparalleled safety in harnessing nuclear energy. We look forward to positive engagements," said KNRA chairman Omondi Anyanga.

Last month, the US 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.

At the talks in Washington DC, countries shared experiences in what experts say is a significant leap forward as distinguished scientists, politicians and regulators gather to discuss opportunities and challenges.

Kenya 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.

Some of KNRA's recent attempts to boost security include the April training of Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) officials on detection and handling of threats from chemical, biological and radiological materials.

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