ABUJA: A Director in the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Ambassador Muhammad Khaliq yesterday applauded the Nigerian government over its decision to harness nuclear technology for electricity generation.
Amb. Khaliq who made the remarks in Abuja at the national workshop on Design Basis Threat, DBT, in Nigeria, said however that, the decision will present a new set of challenges for Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Agency, NNRA, in terms of manpower development because of the peculiarities of the nuclear power programme.
Commending the country over its applications of nuclear energy, Amb. Khaliq noted that, “today, all radioactive sources which came into the country since the advent of NNRA are authorised and captured in the NNRA Regulatory Authority Information System, RAIS. “
Adding that “no radioactive source or safeguard material can enter Nigeria without an NNRA License”, the Director said, “I note with satisfaction that this level of success has been largely achieved as a result of cooperation between NNRA and the security agencies, most of which are present here today.
Participants at the workshop, organised by the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority, NNRA, in collaboration with International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, were drawn from the Defence, department of State Service, Nigeria Custom Services, National Intelligence agency, Nigerian Immigration services, Centre for Energy Research and training, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, office of the National Security Adviser, Nigeria police force, and Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission among others.
According to khaliq, “I understand that there is even a Nuclear Security Committee, NSC, which advices NNRA in the event of gross violations, and that the committee has helped in the resolution of many such situations in the past.”
He said, “the use of ionizing radiation in Nigeria cuts across many sectors of the economy such as Petroleum industry, Health, agriculture, Research and training. Manufacturing, Water Resources management. Incidentally, the Ministry of Petroleum which is the supervising ministry of the NNRA oversees the sector which is the largest importer of sealed radioactive sources into the country.
“Many of the sources in these applications are high-risk and therefore demand commensurate physical protection”, he said.
He said, the workshop is aimed at enhancing the competence of all relevant stakeholders to carry out national level threat assessment and consequently strengthen the security of nuclear and other radioactive materials and facilities in the country.
In his open remarks, the Acting Director, NNRA, Martin Ogharandukun, noted that since its establishment over the past decade, the Agency has exercised effective regulatory oversight functions on users of nuclear material and radioactive sources in the country.
He said the exercise cut across the Petroleum Industry, Health, Manufacturing, Mining, Education and Research, Agriculture and other sectors of the economy, adding, “we have developed and gazetted a number of general and practice specific regulations covering such areas as safety, security, transport and waste management to ensure the protection of life, health, property and the environment from harmful effects of ionizing radiation while allowing beneficial practices.
He said, “it is pertinent at this point to also note that Nigeria is a Party to most of the International Conventions and Treaties dealing with safety and security of radioactive sources and nuclear materials.
Ogharandukun named the challenges currently confronting the agency to include, the passage of the Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards Bill (NSSS Bill) into law by the Senate, inadequate detection capacity at the ports of entry for radioactive sources, and the disposal of the legacy radioactive sources at Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited,