Nigerian regulator committed to safety, says IAEA

12 July 2017

Nigeria has a committed regulatory body that works for the continuous improvement of nuclear and radiation safety, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) peer review mission has concluded. However, it noted challenges related to its independence in implementing regulatory decisions and activities.

An IAEA Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team today completed a ten-day mission to Nigeria. The 12-member team comprised senior experts from France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Latvia, Morocco, Pakistan, Slovenia, Turkey and Zimbabwe, as well as three IAEA staff members. The Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA) is the body responsible for regulatory oversight in the African country.

IRRS missions are designed to strengthen the effectiveness of the national radiation safety regulatory infrastructure, while recognising the responsibility of each member state to ensure nuclear and radiation safety. The missions compare regulatory technical and policy issues with IAEA safety standards and, where appropriate, good practices elsewhere. The regulatory review process also draws directly upon the wide-ranging international experience and expertise of the regulatory review team members. The review leads to a report that identifies good practices and provides recommendations and suggestions for improvement.

"The IRRS team recognises the strong commitment of Nigeria to improving nuclear and radiation safety."

Lamberto Matteocci,
IRRS mission leader

The IRRS team identified good practice in the NNRA's routine training for news media to inform them about its processes and decisions, as well as the possible radiation risks associated with facilities and activities.

The team also made recommendations and suggestions to the government and NNRA to help them further enhance the country's regulatory framework in line with IAEA safety standards. These include the government establishing a national policy on safety and ensuring the corresponding legal framework is in line with those safety standards. It also recommends that the government ensures the NNRA is effectively independent and is functionally separate from entities having responsibilities or interests that could influence its decision-making.

The IRRS team also suggested NNRA carry out an analysis of all competencies needed to cover its responsibilities, and develop and implement a human resource and training plan. It should also ensure all facilities and activities have valid authorisation, and establish and implement an enforcement policy to respond to non-compliance. The NNRA should also consider formalising cooperation with other authorities having responsibilities related to safety.

Team leader Lamberto Matteocci, technical coordinator for nuclear safety and radiation protection at the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, said: "The IRRS team recognises the strong commitment of Nigeria to improving nuclear and radiation safety. We believe the outcome of this mission will be of great help to the country in order to enhance its national regulatory framework."

NNRA director general Lawrence Dim said, "The Nigerian government will work with the IAEA to develop a work-plan for the implementation of the mission's recommendations and suggestions. Nigeria is always ready to cooperate with the Agency in the area of nuclear and radiation safety, as well as in other areas. We are committed to using the IAEA safety standards and international best practices to improve our policy, and legal, technical and regulatory infrastructure."

The final IRRS mission report will be submitted to the Nigerian government in about three months, the IAEA said. It noted Nigerian authorities have said they plan to make the report public.

According to the IAEA, Nigeria makes extensive use of radiation sources in medical and industrial applications, as well as in science and research. It started up its first research reactor at Ahmadu Bello University in 2004 for the analysis of materials and training.

To address rapidly increasing baseload electricity demand, Nigeria has sought the support of the IAEA to develop plans for up to 4000 MWe of nuclear capacity by 2025.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News