A group of Rwandans is currently undergoing a training course on the international legal framework for nuclear security, assistance programmes, and regulatory frameworks for the security of radioactive material.
The five-day programme, according to Patrick Nyirishema, the director-general of Rwandan Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), doesn’t necessarily mean that the country intends to start producing nuclear materials but is rather designed to equip participants with technical know-how to help ensure that radioactive materials do not fall into the wrong hands.
The training, hosted by RURA, is being conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in Kigali, with more than 40 participants from various institutions taking part.
Nyirishema said the training will go a long way in enabling a broader understanding of what radiation protection is all about such that it could inform policy in future should the need arise.
“Rwanda is developing and as a country develops it needs a lot of things across different sectors. Being a signatory to international conventions that bind countries to put measures in place on radiation protection regardless of the level at which the country is in producing radioactive materials, we need to build the necessary legal framework and capacity to streamline radiation protection in Rwanda, regardless of what the uses may be,” Nyirishema said.
“While various sectors will be exploring how to use radioactive materials to benefit the country, RURA will be looking out to ensure that whatever is done is done in a safe and a manner that citizens are protected.”
Germaine Kamayirese, the minister of state for energy, water and sanitation, said the training is expected to help Rwanda control and protect radioactive materials from falling into the hands of ill-intentioned persons.
Selected participants will learn how to prevent, detect and respond to incidents related to radioactive materials falling into the hands of those who wish to do harm, she said.
“These radioactive materials are not just related to energy production, but also nuclear materials that are used for medicine, industry, research, research reactors and storage and disposal,” Kamayirese said.
National security policies that are being discussed at the conference include how to keep radioactive materials from being sabotaged, stolen, extorted for a profit, or used by terrorists as a weapon.
What this means
“This means that Rwanda intends to leverage nuclear sources for good purposes. As the country develops we explore everything that can help the county grow further. What we are doing is meeting an international obligation by equipping the country to better handle national protection and this will be used in future if the need arises,” Nyirishema said.
According to Paulina Gizowsaka, the associate nuclear security officer at IAEA, the objective of a state’s nuclear security regime, as per the UN convention on nuclear energy, is to protect persons, property, society, and the environment from the harmful consequences of a nuclear security event.
With this objective in mind, states should establish, implement, maintain and sustain an effective and appropriate nuclear security regime to prevent, detect and respond to such nuclear security events, the official said.
The basis for a state’s nuclear security regime is the legislative and regulatory framework, she said.
“States should understand what their obligations and responsibilities are under the various international instruments for nuclear security and know what measures they should develop and maintain at the national level,” Gizowska told The New Times.
Creating nuclear security policies will help Rwanda safely and securely explore options to use nuclear energy, Rene Schlee, the associate nuclear security officer at IAEA, said.
“Nuclear security continues to be recognised as an important issue worldwide, especially in light of increasing threats around the world,” Schlee said.
“Responsibilities for nuclear security rest entirely with the state, but the agency is ready and has a lot of experience in assisting states with implementing and finding the right measures for radioactive resources.”