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37 Countries in Africa to Benefit from Strengthened Regulatory Infrastructure on Radiation Safety and Security of Radioactive Material

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Representatives from African countries met at the IAEA headquarters from 20 to 24 January to kick off the second phase of the safety-security RIDP project. (Photo: C. Villarreal Silva/IAEA)

Radiation sources critical in medicine, industry, research, and education need to be handled with care to protect people and the environment from the potential harmful effects of radiation and to ensure that they do not end up in hands of unauthorized persons or organizations.

“A strong and solid regulatory body, effectively independent, with appropriate legal authority, resources and technical competence is the first ally to ensure safe and secure use of radiation sources,” said Juan Carlos Lentijo, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, at the launch of the second phase of the IAEA’s Regulatory Infrastructure Development Project (RIDP) in Vienna last week. The project is now supporting 37 African countries in establishing such regulatory bodies.

RIDPs to support countries in building strong regulatory infrastructure are currently being implemented in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, supported by three different contributors. 

The second phase of the RIDP represents an increase of 24 participating countries compared to 13 when the project’s first phase was launched in 2017. This includes 28 IAEA Member States and nine non-IAEA Member States – Cape Verde, Comoros, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Equatorial, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, the Federal Republic of Somalia and the Republic of South Sudan. The list of contributors has also been extended, including not only the United States but also Canada and France.

In Vienna last week, 64 participants worked together on setting up country workplans for arranging the delivery of IAEA assistance over the three-year project duration. They will receive support in areas such as building and strengthening national policy for radiation safety and security of radioactive material, drafting regulations and developing regulatory guides and procedures, and building capacities for authorization and inspection.

Learning from experience

“This Project fully combines the safety and security approach, bearing in mind differences between the two areas, and benefitting from full coordination and cooperation between key assistance mechanisms within the IAEA, including the Technical Cooperation Programme,“ said Lentijo.

The new phase of the project integrates lessons learned from previous RIDPs and other similar projects in Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa, such as the First School on Drafting Nuclear Security Regulations for African Countries.

The RIDP Latin America and the Caribbean also helped to revamp the Advisory Mission on Regulatory Infrastructure for Radiation Safety (AMRAS) into a combined safety-security format, piloted in the Central African Republic, and other capacity building tools. “My organization has recently cooperated with the Agency to build a training course for new regulators in our region, and now we look forward to transferring the experience and know-how to build a similar training course adapted to the specific needs of regulators in the Africa region,” said Ana Molinari, Head of Knowledge Management at the Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Argentina.

The project leaders have identified four so-called facilitating countries - Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, and Senegal. These will play a key role in the next phase of the project by facilitating the knowledge exchange and providing best practices from the region.

In Vienna, delegates from participating countries worked with IAEA experts and donors on setting up country workplans. (Photo: C. Villarreal Silva/IAEA)

In the first phase of the RIDP project in Africa, countries like Benin, Malawi, Rwanda and Seychelles, among others, have strongly benefited from the assistance provided to establish the national regulatory authorities with capacities to discharge regulatory responsibilities over the control of radiation sources. The regulatory body of Mauritania received RIDP assistance to put in place a fully operational inspection system.  

Similar projects were held in 2013 in Afghanistan and from 2014 to 2016 in North Africa and the Middle East.

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