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IAEA Mission says Botswana Has Strengthened Nuclear and Radiation Safety, Sees Areas for Improvement

2017/53
Gaborone Botswana

Botswana flag. (futureatlas.com/Flickr)

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Botswana has significantly enhanced its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety over the last decade but that work remains to establish effective oversight of all its facilities and activities in this field.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team concluded a 9-day mission today to review Botswana’s regulatory safety framework. In Botswana, the Radiation Protection Board (RPB) takes decisions on regulatory issues, which are implemented by the Radiation Protection Inspectorate (RPI) of the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology. 

Using IAEA safety standards and international best practices, IRRS missions are designed to strengthen the effectiveness of the national regulatory infrastructure, while recognizing the responsibility of each State to ensure nuclear and radiation safety.

The IRRS team said Botswana has made notable progress since a previous mission in 2008 and now has a regulatory framework for safety in place. However, it still faces challenges related to the consistent and effective regulation of the use of ionizing radiation sources.

Measures are under way to address these challenges and continued Government support is needed to complete them in a timely manner, the team said. The focus should be on further building the RPI’s technical capabilities and updating regulations and procedures for emergency preparedness and response and other activities.

The IRRS team made recommendations and suggestions to further improve the country’s regulatory framework.

“RPI, with its highly committed staff, has made considerable progress in strengthening its regulatory processes and in improving the management of radiation safety,” said team leader Tanya Kenny, Senior Regulator at Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency. “The recommendations should assist the Government in prioritizing work to improve the long-term safety of the Botswanan public, radiation workers and the environment.”

Botswana uses radiation sources in medical and industrial applications, as well as in science and research. The country also has plans for mining uranium.

The mission covered areas and activities including: responsibilities and functions of the Government and the regulatory authorities; the global nuclear safety regime; RPI’s management and activities including authorization, review and assessment, inspection and enforcement processes; the development and content of regulations and guides; emergency preparedness and response; transport; control of medical exposures; occupational radiation protection;  environmental monitoring; and remediation.

The team observed regulatory activities and inspections, and conducted interviews within the RPI and the Ministry, as well as with licensee staff and management. The experts also visited a private hospital and a brachytherapy clinic, and a temporary storage facility for sealed sources. 

Oupa Masesane, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, expressed gratitude to the IRRS team, and said the review would “go a long way in shaping the country's regulatory framework”. RPI Director Thapelo Otukile added: “The mission findings provided the Inspectorate with insight for the improvement needed to achieve regulatory excellence.”

The 9-member IRRS team comprised senior experts from Austria, Egypt, France, Ireland, Morocco, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe, as well as 4 IAEA staff members. 

“I would like to commend the Government of Botswana for being the first African Member State to invite a second IRRS mission within 10 years, which is in-line with international best practice,” said Peter Johnston, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety. “It is good to see that Botswana has made significant progress since the first IRRS mission in 2008.” 

The IRRS team identified several good practices, including:

  • Safety culture is an integrated part of the RPI’s management system.
  • Strong recognition of the importance of international cooperation in the development of a global safety regime, through participation in international instruments and bilateral and multilateral arrangements, as well as international peer reviews.

The mission made recommendations and suggestions for further improvements, including:

  • The Government should establish a national policy and a strategy for radioactive waste management that includes decommissioning, remediation and disposal.
  • The Government should ensure that the legal and regulatory framework enables the RPB’s effective independence.
  • The Government should develop an emergency plan at the national level to address nuclear and radiological emergencies.
  • The Government should take steps to build and maintain competence of all parties responsible for the safety of facilities and activities.
  • The RPB should review and update regulations and guides to ensure consistency with the latest IAEA safety standards.

The final mission report will be provided to Botswana in about three months. Botswana plans to make it public.

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