The first IAEA Occupational Radiation Protection Service (ORPAS) mission to Botswana has highlighted good management system of radiation protection, which fosters a strong safety culture in protecting workers. “The findings from this ORPAS mission demonstrate Botswana’s strong commitment to strengthening the occupational radiation protection infrastructure in line with international safety standards,” said Miroslav Pinak, Head of the IAEA Radiation Safety & Monitoring Section. The also mission identified that Botswana “could further strengthen radiation protection arrangements by developing training and qualification programmes”, he added.

Earlier this year Botswana opened its first public radiotherapy centre, with the support of the IAEA’s Rays of Hope initiative, which it joined in in 2022. Through the initiative the centre has developed bunkers (shielded rooms) to house radiation treatment equipment in line with IAEA safety standards.

Since becoming an IAEA member state in 2002, Botswana has developed the peaceful, safe and secure use of nuclear technology in various areas including medical diagnosis of diseases and injury using x rays and radioisotopes as well as industrial applications such as monitoring the density of the materials during mining and road construction using nuclear gauges.

The five-day ORPAS missions, which was requested by the Government of Botswana, was hosted by Botswana’s Radiation Protection Inspectorate in the capital Gaborone. The team comprised international experts from six African countries – Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria and Zimbabwe – as well as two IAEA staff. The mission undertook discussions with national counterparts and visits to a regulatory body, a dosimetry laboratory and ten nuclear technology facilities, including an individual monitoring laboratory and quality control laboratory, hospitals and a construction company.

Team Leader Joseph Amoako from the School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences-University of Ghana said Botswana’s comprehensive completion of the ORPAS self-assessment questionnaires in regulation, operation and dosimetry, made it possible to conduct “a thorough assessment and contribute to an updated action plan that will support the country to improve the safety of workers in facilities using ionising radiation”.

The team identified good practices in the occupational radiation protection programmes that were formally documented at several sites, many of which are working toward accreditation as an independent measure of competence. Other good practices identified included the regular maintenance and calibration of radiation measurement devices such as x ray and gamma radiation survey instruments, and engaging operators in radiation protection practices, all of which provide for a strong safety culture.

The team also proposed recommendations for closer alignment with IAEA Safety Standards, including:

  • to develop national qualification programmes and training content for Radiation Protection Officers;
  • to make formal arrangements between employers and workers for obtaining dose histories from previous exposure related activities; and
  • to review existing regulations to for the licensing of technical service providers.

“The ORPAS mission will accelerate our national efforts to develop a strong and sustainable occupational radiation protection system for a healthy workforce,” said Pontso Pusoetsile, Permanent Secretary of the Botswana Ministry of Communications, Knowledge & Technology. “We will use the outcomes of the mission to develop a national regulatory infrastructure that is compatible with the international radiation protection system.”

A report by the team will be issued within four months of the visit. A follow-up mission is usually conducted within five years to review progress.

Image: An IAEA Occupational Radiation Protection Service mission team member reviews the individual monitoring service for external radiation exposure at Botswana's Radiation Protection Institute (courtesy of Radiation Protection Institute)