Chineme Okafor in Abuja

The federal government on Monday invited the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to assess Nigeria’s nuclear and radiation regulatory framework, as well as review her compliance with safe use of nuclear materials.
It also noted that the IAEA would within the process look into how prepared the country is in case of any nuclear related emergencies within her territory.

In this regards, officials of the IAEA’s Integrated Regulatory Review Services (IRRS) led by Mr. Lambert Matteochi and the IRRS Coordinator, Mr. Teodros Haliu, were welcomed into Nigeria to undertake a review of the country’s regulatory framework and infrastructure as regards nuclear energy and radiation, and would conclude their assessment on July 12, with an exit report on their tasks submitted to the government.

According to the government, the team would in the course of the assessment, visit three facilities of interest in the country; identify best practices that can be shared with other regulators; and provide suggestions and recommendations on Nigeria’s nuclear and radiation safety.

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu, who spoke on the import of this in Abuja during a meeting of the IAEA IRRS mission to Nigeria, said the IAEA was invited to undertake a peer review evaluation of Nigeria’s regulatory infrastructure and preparedness for nuclear and radiation emergencies

The meeting was hosted by the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NNRA). Kachikwu who was represented by his Senior Technical Assistance on Technical Matters, Mr. Adegbite Adeniji, however said that as a strong partner of IAEA in implementing its ‘Atoms for Peace and Development’ mandate, Nigeria has remained committed to ensuring greater security of nuclear materials and maintaining a balance between nuclear non-proliferation obligations and balancing nuclear energy and technology for social economic development.

He noted that Nigeria would continue to live up to its responsibility of ensuring nuclear security whilst collaborating with international agencies such as the IAEA for the provision of tactical assistance and expert advice, with active equipment and training.
“As an important and respected member of the IAEA, we have signed and implemented a number of binding international treaties, agreements and conventions. It is worthy of note that specific national regulations have been developed to domesticate these conventions and treaties while existing regulations are been reviewed and benchmarked with international standards,” Kachikwu said.

Similarly, the Director General of NNRA, Mr. Lawrence Dim, said that since nuclear regulations was an international affair, Nigeria’s invitation of the IAEA to assess her was part of standard practices in the use of nuclear materials.
Dim explained that the mission provided an opportunity for a peer review of Nigeria, with the outcome expected to contain identification of best practices.

Also in his remarks, the Senate Committee Chairman on Petroleum, Upstream, Mr. Tayo Alasoadura, said the review was timely and important to the country, in view of the need to prevent a recurrence of nuclear and radiation disasters that happened in some countries over the years.
Alasoadura’s counterpart at the House of Representatives, Mr. Victor Nwokolo, said the review was apt to ensure that operators were aware of the latest and best ways of moving nuclear materials in or out of the country.

Nwokolo thus said: “In a nutshell, we want these materials to be properly secured, especially with the issue of bomb blast in some parts of the country. The same materials used in our mining sector and quarry are still the same materials used by the terrorists in bombing.

“That is why this review is very timely, to ensure they do not go to wrong hands. As the days pass by, the criminals in our society device more sophisticated methods of getting their evil aspirations carried out.”