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Published On: Thu, Nov 23rd, 2017

Ensuring nuclear safety in Nigeria: The NNRA example

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Although, radioactive materials which are associated with nuclear power plants can have beneficial uses, such as in cancer therapy but they are generally harmful to health. This demands that their use, and the process by which they are produced, must be strictly regulated to ensure nuclear safety.
However, to ensure nuclear safety for proper operating conditions and the prevention, mitigation of accident consequences, resulting in protection of workers, the public and the environment from undue radiation hazards, the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA) organized a One-Day-Information Meeting in Abuja, Ochiaka Ugwu was there for Peoples Daily
The fact remains that Nuclear power plants use fissile materials to produce energy in the form of heat, which is converted to electricity by conventional generating plant. Radioactive materials are produced as a by-product of this process.
In order to find permanent solution towards making sure that it does not affect human condition, the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NNRA) put together a one-day-symposium in Abuja with the theme, “Emerging Security threats and the need for Integrated Approach”.
While kick starting the event, the Director General, Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA), Prof. Lawrence Dim in his welcome address expressed delight in speaking to key stakeholders on the part to Nigeria’s safety and security, saying that choice of the theme of the panel discussion “Emerging security threats and the need for integrated approach” was apt.
Prof. Dim who took audience back memory lane said that NNRA was established by Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Act (No. 19 of 1995) Cap N142 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 (the Act).
He noted that NNRA has emplaced a regulatory control programme for nuclear safety, radiological protection regulation which geared towards protecting people, property and environment from harmful effects of ionizing radiation while allowing beneficial practices involving the use of ionizing radiation.
He informed that by virtue of its regulatory activities, the issue of Nuclear Safety, security and radiation protection has become very topical mainly because Nigerians are now becoming more informed about the harmful effects of the misuse of ionizing radiation.
Dim noted that Nigeria has been at the forefront of United Nations and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) efforts in ensuring that nuclear materials and radioactive sources do not fall into the wrong hands that will lead to abuse.
Continuing, Dim said that Nigeria has over time signed relevant security related international instruments like the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Comprehensive Safeguard Agreement (CSA), Additional protocol to the CSA, Convention on the Physical protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPMN) and its amendment, Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources, International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT), “This is done to ensure its commitment to nuclear safety” he said.
He also said that Nigeria has enhanced national and international nuclear security regime and has attended the past four biennial Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) and the February-March 2016 summit held in Washington DC, United States of America which led to establishment of NSC that is facilitating support and the development of sustainable human resources through the provision of a National Nuclear Security Training.
The DG made a revelation to stunned audience on how radioactive sources were imported and used in the country prior to 2001 without any form of authorization.
He said the safety and security of these materials are guaranteed through an effective regulatory control progamme saying that NNRA makes regulations and over the years several regulations were made with the regulatory control programme being supported by relevant security and agencies of government.
“The NNRA develops and implements the Design Basis Threat (DBT) which guides facilities on the physical protection systems in cooperation with security agencies”.
He stressed the need for maintaining safety and security environment with proper information dissemination.
“Maintaining a safety and security environment is an important objective and we must do so with proper information dissemination.
“We are reminded every day of the record numbers of people that are left without proper information on the idea of safety and security.
“Safety and security is the second most sought after physiological need. Safety and security, where it does exist is often our most undervalued commodity worth billions of Naira annually to the Nigerian economy”.
Prof. Dim stressed the need for inter agency support towards the challenges of safety and security in Nigeria.
“This is obviously an issue which no one agency can afford to ignore. But also, which no one agency can tackle alone”.
Dim informed that the 2017 – 2020 NNRA strategic plan offers the truly comprehensive blueprint for addressing these challenges together, saying that it is the best hope of rebuilding trust and confidence given the fact that it promises to leave nobody outside the National Security Framework.
Speaking further, he said NNRA’s National Strategy and new consensus on information management was to promote a more credible joint approach “The one that streamlines our policies and instruments and steps up inter-agency support for information sharing among relevant stakeholders” he said.
He said that NNRA’s National Strategy and new consensus on information management will bring the much needed coherence between stakeholders, security and crisis responses and information dissemination actions.
He expressed their resolve to put human rights, good governance, effective institutions, and the rule of law at the forefront of their efforts in a more people-centered approach.
While urging stakeholders to work together by bringing their expertise, resources and competency to bear on the security, develop a common approach to solving the security challenges in Nigeria, he asked them to help spread the information about nuclear security and safety to the populace.
An important stakeholder in Nuclear Safety and security project and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj-Gen. Babagana Monguno (Rtd) who was represented by Director of Policy and Strategy, Mr. Umar Abbah said that security is important in all facet of human endeavors maintaining that the time is now for concerted effort to be made towards peaceful application of nuclear power for sustainable development.
Abbah who delivered NSA’s keynote address urged NNRA to think towards using Nuclear power for development especially in energy sector to reduce pressure on gas turbines.
The Director General, State Security Service, Mr. Lawal Daura who was represented by Mr. Paul Afunanya noted that the issue is no longer about proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons alone but has extended to nuclear weapon as exemplified by North Korea.
Afunanya who delivered the lead paper, called for more synergy with security agencies for national development.
The first paper presentation was done by Mr. Adamu Abdul with the title: Nuclear Security in Nigeria. This was followed by a panel discussion, presentation and signing of communiqué.
The symposium was attended by cross session of Nigerians from the Nigerian Military, Police, Immigration, Customs, DSS, Office of the National Security Adviser, the media and the general public. In fact, it was a November to remember in NNRA’s resolve to create Nuclear Safety and security awareness in Nigeria.

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