The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) signed two agreements with African nuclear regulatory bodies at the National Nuclear Regulator’s (NNR’s) recent second Nuclear Regulatory Information Conference. The agreements were designated ‘practical arrangements’ and were between the IAEA and the NNR and between the IAEA and the Forum for Nuclear Regulatory Bodies in Africa.
In his keynote address to the conference, IAEA deputy director-general and head of the Nuclear Safety and Security Department Juan Carlos Lentijo pointed out that the agency, and his department, in particular, supported the development in member countries of the skills necessary to ensure nuclear and radiological safety and security. International cooperation in the area was key, as it also promoted global nuclear safety and security.
“Creating a highly skilled workforce takes effort,” he observed. Effort was necessary on the part of both the workers themselves and the national decision-makers. The latter had to devote the necessary resources to ensure the success of the effort. Regarding South Africa, he added that the development of these skills in the country would also benefit the other countries in the region.
He reported that a number of countries had indicated to the IAEA that they needed assistance in developing the skills required to bring their institutions into line with IAEA standards. With IAEA help, a number of African countries were developing action plans to meet their needs.
As part of its policy to help develop safety, security and regulatory standards and capabilities in those countries desiring such assistance, the IAEA could send technical and scientific support organisations (TSOs) to them. (These comprise experts who provide technical and scientific services for national nuclear regulatory authorities and industry, and help advise governments, to assist them in achieving the highest possible nuclear – including waste – and radiation protection safety and security levels.)
He highlighted that the NNR Centre for Nuclear Safety and Security was hosting a pilot of an IAEA initiative to develop such skills. He pointed out that the South African regulator had long been cooperating with international forums on nuclear safety, security and regulation. The Forum for Nuclear Regulatory Bodies in Africa was one such forum, to which the NNR had shown its commitment.
He noted there was a proposal to create a TSO for Africa that would cover matters such as the safe and secure transport and storage of nuclear and other radioactive materials. He expressed the view that the development of a TSO in Africa would not only benefit African countries but also help other regions that might follow Africa’s example.
He reiterated that safety was an area in which the development of skills was highly important. The IAEA offered many programmes and courses in support of the development of such skills. “We recently launched the International School for Nuclear and Radiological Leadership for Safety,” said Lentijo. This was for middle-ranking, not senior, personnel. “The course enables participants to develop their safety leadership skills. We conducted a successful pilot version in 2017 in France. We encourage you to hold such a school in Africa.” Because the course developed the competences needed to ensure nuclear safety and security, it was of benefit to national nuclear regulatory bodies.
In terms of international cooperation, the NNR “is a very good example . . . the agency (IAEA) is committed to continuing its fruitful cooperation with the NNR”. The two bodies were partners in enhancing nuclear safety and security, worldwide.