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General News of Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Source: GNA

Ghana is on top of radioactive safety and security - GAEC

Professor Benjamin Jabez Nyarko Professor Benjamin Jabez Nyarko

The Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) says Ghana is competently managing her radioactive sources and related issues to keep citizens safe.

Professor Benjamin Jabez Nyarko, the Director-General of GAEC, said the Commission had ensured the security of those sources, over the years, as it continued to closely guard and monitor radioactive source user facilities against any form of sabotage, including external attacks or hazards.

“…Radiation, even if just radioactive sources, have not been used in Ghana by just anybody because we are on top of affairs and have data on all the places that have these sources," he said in an interview with the Ghana News Agency.

"We regularly go to these facilities for monitoring and when these equipment are no longer in use, we retrieve them for safe keeping."

Prof Nyarko, explaining the importance of nuclear energy to national development, said nuclear science had been safely applied for the benefit of citizens in various forms for many years in healthcare, agriculture, water and sanitation, and other industrial sectors.

He said there were strict monitoring regimes to ensure the safety of individuals exposed to small radiation sources, such as x-ray machines and gauges for measuring the levels of products in mining, petroleum and other industries.

Should there be indication of quality, standards or performance issues, they were promptly addressed within internationally approved protocols and regimes, he said.

Prof Nyarko said GAEC had a Radioactive Waste Management Centre, which went round the country occasionally and picked those sources that were no more in use due to decay, for proper treatment and storage “to prevent them from the reach of bad people.”

“This is what is called environmental protection when it comes to radiation protection,” he said.

Prof Nyarko said Ghana had successfully operated a nuclear research reactor for many years without question, and that experience had earned the country the trust of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to effectively operate a Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) as a sustainable option to its electricity supply needs.

He said in operating an NPP, high safety standards were required, and since that was already an internal mandate of the Commission, safety was holistically inbuilt in every step of the system, with workers mandated to adhere to all the safety protocols.

The Director-General allayed the fears of the public in terms of usage of nuclear power by urging them to distinguish between the use of nuclear power as a weapon, an accident, or for peaceful uses with huge benefits.

He admitted that accidents may occur even in the peaceful usage of nuclear technology, and that was the reason all possible efforts must be made to prevent such incidents.

Currently, the nuclear fraternity had tried as much as possible to mitigate any system that could cause an accident, such as in the Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl, which were both human errors because the stakeholders failed to take the needed precaution.

The Three Mile Island accident was a partial meltdown of reactor number 2 of Three Mile Island Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, and subsequent radiation leak that occurred on March 28, 1979.

It is the most significant accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant history.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was a 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. The event was primarily caused by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

It is the most severe nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Prof. Nyarko said building on those lessons, what the current nuclear fraternity had done to mitigate accidents caused by human error was to ensure that the new reactors that were built could withstand any magnitude of tsunamis and earthquakes.

And even if there was an accident all the radiation remained in the containment because there was a huge system that was built on the reactor core, so in case of any release of radioactivity, it would not come out, he said.

Prof Nyarko said there were also highly trained professionals to operate the facility, and some of the systems were also such that the human-machine interface was very limited, hence in the absence of a person during a mistake, the machine itself could log out to prevent a nuclear disaster.

He said the IAEA had a system known as safeguards, which occasionally visited countries with nuclear reactors and nuclear power programmes to take stock and prevent violations or diversions, as well as issue sanctions by reporting to the UN Security Council when the need arose.

Nuclear power programmes were international programmes that required strict adherence to global requirement and standards and not just at the national level, he added.