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Training the Next Generation of African Scientists: IAEA Celebrates Success of 2nd AFRA Research Reactor School

Course instructor explaining equipment in the radioisotope production laboratory. (Photo: N. Bentaleb/CNESTEN)

To aid Member State development of human capacity for the design, safe operation, and utilization of research reactors (RR) and associated facilities, the IAEA offers specialized education and training to Member State personnel. From 27 November to 1 December 2017 in Rabat, Morocco, the IAEA and Morocco’s Centre National de l’Énergie des Sciences et des Techniques Nucléaires (CNESTEN) held a training course for 26 young professionals from African Member States on the production of reactor-based radionuclides and their quality control.

The IAEA-CNESTEN course — the second AFRA Research Reactor School to be delivered in the framework of an ongoing regional technical cooperation project[1] — was designed to help Member States meet the growing demand for radioisotope production by training personnel in the efficient, effective, and safe utilization of RRs. Optimizing use of the region’s facilities is a key priority, as the reactors are essential to the production of diagnostic and therapeutic radioisotopes for applications in the health and industrial sectors.

In addition to theoretical lectures, participants in the training course received state-of-the-art practical instruction using the TRIGA-type RR and associated laboratories. Students participated in exercises related to various work positions, tested different instruments and equipment, and experienced best practices and safety culture first-hand. IAEA experts supervised trainees’ use of the facilities to produce the radioisotopes 99Mo, 131I, 153Sm and 177Lu—all key components of therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals used to fight cancer.

2nd AFRA Research Reactor School participants and instructors. (Photo: N. Bentaleb/CNESTEN)

Participants' feedback praised the course’s hands-on modules, particularly those on target preparation and validation, irradiation, and purification. Other comments highlighted the importance of the modules on quality control of end products according to the quality management system, and good manufacturing practices.

At present, there are 10 operational RRs in eight African countries (Algeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa) actively participating in RR-related nuclear programmes. Three other African countries (Sudan, Tanzania and Tunisia) are in advanced planning to build their first RRs.

 

[1] RAF1005 ‘Strengthening the Capacity for Research Reactor Safety and Applications in Africa (AFRA)’. Components of this regional technical project are funded through the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Fund, and through extrabudgetary contributions from Spain and the United States of America.

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