By Noé Ebije, Kaduna
After 18 years of successful operation of the country’s nuclear facilities, the Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) convened experts in Zaria on Tuesday for a 3-day workshop to reflect on the continued safety and security of the facilities. nuclear power in the country.
Experts in the training workshop held at Center for Energy Research and Training (CERT), Zaria will discuss nuclear safety, security and safeguards in the country’s environment.
In his welcoming remarks shortly before declaring the workshop open, NAEC President and CEO, Professor Yusuf Ahmed, explained that the main objective of any national nuclear energy program is safety. and protecting the lives of workers, people and the environment. wherever these nuclear facilities are operated.
Professor Ahmed, represented by Professor Abdullahi Madi, Director of the Commission, said that the safety and security of nuclear facilities should not be played around with, stressing that there were important lessons to be learned from the 1979 nuclear accidents in United States, from 1986 to Ukraine, and more recently in Japan in 2011.
In his address, the Director of the Center for Energy Research and Training, Professor Sunday Jonah, stressed the need to protect nuclear facilities from malicious people in society, adding that the training workshop was timely.
According to Professor Ahmed, “The cardinal objective of any national nuclear energy program rests on the safety and protection of the lives of workers, people and the environment wherever such nuclear installations are operated. Accordingly, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) defines nuclear safety as “the achievement of appropriate operating conditions, the prevention of accidents or the mitigation of the consequences of accidents, resulting in the protection of workers, public and the environment against undue radiological risks”.
“Based on the above, the nuclear sector requires and engages a highly technical and skilled workforce and it remains the most regimented in the world. While considering the challenges of preventing and mitigating nuclear accidents and the radiation effects that can result, the need to train and retrain personnel cannot be overstated because, firstly; he gives credence to the refrain “As we practice, we will perform” and secondly; the ultimate responsibility for ensuring the safety of nuclear applications rests entirely on the shoulders of the operators of these facilities.
“The deployment of nuclear energy for national socio-economic development is not new and Nigeria has benefited from the applications of nuclear and other radioactive substances for scientific research, education and training as well as for specialized uses such as medicine, industry and agriculture In these various fields of application, the radiological risks that may arise for workers, the public and the environment must be assessed and controlled.
“A brief journey through the history of the nuclear industry shows that among its peers in nuclear safety, security and safeguards, nuclear security considerations were at the forefront.
“Indeed, the imperative need for nuclear safety has gained notoriety due to the impact of 3-Mile Island of March 28, 1979 in the United States, the Chernobyl nuclear accident of April 26, 1986 in present-day Ukraine and the more recent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident of March 11, 2011 in Japan.
“In the future, nuclear safety issues will receive the greatest attention due to their cross-border nature, their impact on the environment and the lengthy remediation process they involve each time they arise.
“In order to prevent future occurrences, the international community, through the IAEA, ensures that all national nuclear safety regimes are strengthened through the establishment of competent agencies such as the Nigerian Nuclear Safety Commission. Energy (NAEC) and the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA) with independent mandates and responsibilities.
“The NNRA, as a specialized government agency, enforces its regulations through appropriate laws and bills while ensuring that international laws aimed at further consolidating nuclear safety are domesticated.
“These international statutes include the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident (1986); Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency (1986); Convention on Nuclear Safety (1994); Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management (1997), IAEA Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources, Nuclear Liability, among others.
“Nigeria has been operating its nuclear and radiological facilities for over 18 years without incident. The 30 kW Miniature Neutron Source Research Reactor, otherwise known as NIRR-1, reached criticality and was commissioned on February 3, 2004.
‘The facility was recently converted from High Enriched Uranium (HEU) core to Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) in 2018. The Gamma Irradiation Facility (GIF) was commissioned in July 2006, while the The 1.7 e-volt tandem accelerator was also commissioned for operation in 2008.
“This is apart from gamma cameras, Linac accelerators and other radiation therapy equipment which are used daily in various hospitals across the country for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. At this point, it is pertinent to say that these commendable feats are recognized and highly recommended by the IAEA.
“It is in this context, the need to ensure the continuum of a culture of safety at work, that the Commission is organizing this national 3-day training workshop for personnel and operators involved in the management of critical installations of its establishments.
“This is intended to deepen our commitment to a safe and secure work ethic and to the core principle of nuclear knowledge management.
“As you well know, the tripod of nuclear safety, security and safeguards is the foundation on which all national nuclear energy programs are formulated. To this end, issues concerning these three elements are usually linked and are rarely discussed in isolation.
“So while nuclear safety issues can be broken down 85% of the time in this training workshop through presentations and discussions on issues such as standard operating procedure, emergency preparedness plan emergency, detectors and nuclear security, the remaining 15% of the discussions must border on nuclear security through the need for physical protection systems in nuclear installations and also on safeguards through discussions on the importance of accounting nuclear materials and, of course, the important issue of incident reports, whenever they arise.