By Michael Eboh
THe International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, has rated Nigeria high in the area of nuclear energy deployment, radiation safety and emergencies, while it commended the country and the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Agency, NNRA, for its efforts and commitment to improving safety and the protection of people and the environment.
Team Leader of the IAEA’s Integrated Regulatory Review Service, IRRS, Mission to Nigeria, Mr. Lamberto Matteocci, disclosed this at the end of the 10-day review of Nigeria’s regulatory framework and infrastructure as regards nuclear energy and radiation.
The IRRS team observed that Nigeria had decided to include nuclear power in its energy mix to meet an increasing demand for electricity and support economic development, adding that the country had been developing its nuclear power infrastructure for several years.
It also disclosed that Nigeria makes extensive use of radiation sources in medical and industrial application, science and research, and also has a research reactor used for the analysis of materials and training.
Matteocci said, “The IRRS team recognises the strong commitment of Nigeria to improving nuclear and radiation safety. The team was extended full cooperation by all parties in this review. We believe the outcome of this mission will be of great help to the country in order to enhance its national regulatory framework.”
It however, stated that the NNRA, which is the regulatory body in charge of nuclear and radiation issues in Nigeria, was faced with challenges in ensuring its full independence in decision-making and in developing its competence to effectively conduct regulatory activities, particularly in the light of Nigeria’s planned nuclear power programme. The IRRS team also made recommendations to the Government and the NNRA to help them further enhance the country’s regulatory framework in line with IAEA safety standards.
Some of the recommendations include that the Federal Government should establish a national policy on safety and ensure that the corresponding legal framework is in line with IAEA safety standards.
It also recommended that the government should ensure that the NNRA is effectively independent and is functionally separate from entities having responsibilities of interests that could influence its decision making.
Continuing, the IAEA team said, “The NNRA should carry an analysis of all competencies needed to cover its responsibilities and develop and implement a human resource and training plan. The regulatory body should ensure that all facilities and activities have a valid authorization, and establish and implement an enforcement policy to respond to non-compliance.
“The NNRA should consider formalising cooperation with other authorities having responsibilities related to safety.”
Matteocci noted that the final mission report would be provided to Nigeria in about three months, while he stated that the IAEA had secured the assurances of the Nigerian authorities that they plan to make the report public.
In his response, Director General of the NNRA, Professor Lawrence Dim, said the Federal Government would work with the IAEA to develop a work-plan for the implementation of the mission’s recommendations and suggestions.
He said, “Nigeria is always ready to cooperate with the Agency in the area of nuclear and radiation safety, as well as in other areas. We are committed to using the IAEA safety standards and international best practices to improve our policy, and legal, technical and regulatory infrastructure.”
The IRRS was invited by the Federal Government to conduct an assessment of Nigeria’s nuclear and radiation regulatory framework and to also undertake a review of the safety and preparedness of the country as regards such issues and emergencies.
During the mission, the IRRS team members observed regulatory activities and held interviews and discussions with the Government and NNRA management and staff.
The team also visited a gamma irradiation facility, the Centre for Energy Research and Training, and the Abuja National Hospital.