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Regional News of Saturday, 28 August 2021

Source: GNA

Nuclear safety and security assured as Ghana journeys towards energy mix

Manager of the Miniature Neutron Source Reactor Centre, Dr Henry Cecil Odoi Manager of the Miniature Neutron Source Reactor Centre, Dr Henry Cecil Odoi

Ghana has operated a 30 kilowatt research reactor for over 20 years with outstanding safety record.

This has earned the country a number of commendations and support from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other international bodies, since it opted to include Nuclear Power generation in the nation’s energy mix.

Dr Henry Cecil Odoi, the Manager of the Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNRSR) Centre, also known as the Ghana Nuclear Reactor-1 (GHARR-1), addressing a visiting team of Regional Managers and Editors from the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Accra, said high safety and security were assured, as Ghana journeyed towards the adoption of nuclear power.

He explained that since the establishment of the reactor programme for the peaceful application of nuclear science and technology, there had been the strict observation of all IAEA standards and other international protocols, leading to a smooth and hitch-free operation till date.

This, Dr Odoi noted, demonstrated the high capacity and capabilities of the country’s nuclear scientific community to embrace other areas in nuclear science, including the nuclear power generation programme, which is being pursued currently.

The field visit by the GNA team to the reactor site at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) at Kwabenya in Accra, was part of the Nuclear Power Ghana’s (NPGs) stakeholder engagement process, of which a Memorandum of Understanding had been signed with the Agency, to stimulate effective public discourse on the Ghana Nuclear Power Project development efforts, for a sustained public reach and understanding of the project.

Conducting the team round the reactor facility for first-hand information and education, Dr Odoi explained that since the commissioning of the GHARR-1 in March 1995, it remained operational for services including the teaching and learning in Nuclear Engineering, Applied Nuclear Physics, and Nuclear and Radiochemistry for students from the Universities and Polytechnics among others.

He said until its conversion into a Low Uranium-Enriched fuel facility in 2016, the Reactor had run on a High Uranium-Enriched fuel of 90.2 per cent. It was used as a source of neutrons for neutron activation analysis at research institutions, universities and hospitals, as well as the preparation of radioisotopes with medium and short-lived half-lives, and was leveraged as tool for training and education.

The facility had also received enormous support and financial assistance from the IAEA and AFRA, which had greatly enhanced its performance in the area of research and commercialization, and capacity building.

Dr Odoi said the Centre had and continued to render services to many industries, research institutions, Universities and individuals, with some of these services being the analysis of borehole water, sediments and water from streams and rivers in mining areas, petroleum product analysis and food stuffs among other things.

“We also work in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, in routine monitoring of drinking water, food stuffs and mine waste from mining towns and villages, he said.

Dr Odoi stated that the shortage of nuclear professionals worldwide, had become a concern to all, especially in Ghana and Africa, because there was lack of specialised experts to manage, operate and utilize existing facilities.

The situation led to the establishment of the postgraduate School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences (SNAS) by GAEC, to help solve the problem, and the GHARR-1 had been the central equipment for teaching and learning for its students.

Dr Odoi further indicated that the GHARR-1 was being resourced to enable the Centre to provide other services such as support for forensic investigations in the country.

He encouraged the media to read widely and effectively engage with the experts for clearer insights into these undertakings to help enrich their reportage for wider public education.

He stressed that operating a nuclear power plant was the safest, secured, reliable, cleanest and cheapest source of electricity to power Ghana’s industralisation agenda for national growth, and harped on the need for all to have confidence in, and support the strict processes towards its establishment.

The NPG, a State-owned Organization established in 2018 as the Owner/Operator of Ghana’s proposed Nuclear Power Plant, is responsible for project development, project feasibility, construction, operation and decommissioning the Plant in compliance with international best practices.

In line with its mandate it had identified Regional Managers and Editors of the Wire Service as key stakeholders to help drive this agenda in the Regions, hence the training on the theme: “Strengthening and Sustaining Public Trust through Accountable Reportage,” to ensure the smooth take-off of Ghana’s first Nuclear Power plant.