Ghana achieves IAEA nuclear infrastructure milestones

17 January 2017

Ghana has achieved success in all the infrastructural issues which need to be considered before embarking on a nuclear power programme, Professor Benjamin Jabez Narko, the Director-General of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), said in a 12 January interview with the Ghana News Agency.  This goes a long way towards completing the first of the three phases of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) required milestones which newcomer countries are expected to achieve before the development of a national infrastructure for nuclear power. The other two phases involve preparatory work for the construction of a NPP after a policy decision has been taken, and finally ensuring activities to implement a first NPP.

There are 19 infrastructural issues which need to be considered for each milestone. These are:  the national position, nuclear safety, management, funding and financing, legislative framework, safeguards, regulatory framework, radiation protection, electrical grid, human resource development, stakeholder involvement, site and supporting facilities, environmental protection, emergency planning, security and physical protection, nuclear fuel cycle, radioactive waste, industrial involvement, and procurement.

Professor Narko said the aim of achieving successes in these milestones was to help IAEA member states to understand the commitment and obligations associated with developing a nuclear power programme. He said all the necessary legislation and regulatory frameworks had been achieved, including the passage of the Nuclear Regulatory Bill establishing the Ghana Nuclear Regulatory Authority, as well as the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Organisation, which was tasked to coordinate, oversee and administer the phase to phase implementation of the programme.

Other activities related to the other infrastructural issues, especially with regard to human resource capacity development, funding and financing, electric grid, siting, emergency planning, managing the nuclear fuel cycle as well as radioactive waste, among other safety measures, were being diligently pursued.

“We have met with industry players and stakeholders across all key sectors, and we are being advised by our lawyers on land and other legislative and regulatory issues as well”, he said.

He said with the successes achieved so far, Ghana was set to submit to an international peer review programme from 16-23 January in Accra, to be conducted by a team from an IAEA Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission, comprising experts who have direct experience in specialised nuclear infrastructure areas.

Prof Nyarko said building on the country’s documentation on an earlier self-evaluation, the mission team would review the infrastructure status through interviews with the various subject team leads, site visits and document reviews, and make suggestions and recommendations, enabling Ghana to address the identified gaps if any, in accordance with the national action plan.

“In the long term, Ghana may be expected to become one of the countries that make use of nuclear power. This will help overcome energy shortage, as well as provide a necessary impetus for economic development in the country”, he said.

Prof Nyarko said although nuclear energy offers the opportunity to grow greener economies, and provides a cheaper and sustainable alternative to other sources of power for both domestic and industrial uses, Ghana was not in a rush to compromise on safety standards but would follow the required procedures to ensure the achievement of a comprehensive nuclear power programme.

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