IAEA Mission Says Ethiopia’s Regulatory Body Is Committed to Improving Safety Amid Challenges

by Zelalem

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Ethiopia is committed to improving its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety but faces some challenges, including the need to build competence in the safe management of radiation sources.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team concluded a nine-day mission on 12 December to review the regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety in Ethiopia. The mission was carried out at the request of the Government and hosted by the Ethiopian Radiation Protection Authority (ERPA), which is responsible for regulatory oversight in the country.

IRRS missions are designed to strengthen the effectiveness of the national regulatory infrastructure for nuclear and radiation safety, while recognizing the responsibility of each State to ensure safety. Ethiopia uses radioactive sources in medicine and industry, but operates no nuclear power reactors or research reactors.

The IRRS team said the ERPA is committed to protecting people and the environment. The team also made recommendations and suggestions aimed at helping the Government and ERPA to enhance the legislative and regulatory framework and better align it with IAEA safety standards.

“An important observation of the team is that Ethiopia needs to make provisions for building and maintaining competence in radiation safety of all parties having responsibilities in relation to activities with radiation sources,” said team leader Mika Markkanen, Principal Adviser of the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK). “Sufficient competence is essential to ensuring safety.”

The mission covered all civilian radiation source facilities and regulated activities, including: responsibilities and functions of the Government and regulatory body; the global nuclear safety regime; ERPA activities including authorization, review and assessment, and inspection and enforcement; development and content of regulations and guides; emergency preparedness and response; transport; control of medical exposures; occupational radiation protection; radioactive waste; and environmental monitoring and remediation.

The team observed regulatory activities and held interviews and discussions with the State Minister of Science and Technology, representatives of the Government and ministries, and ERPA management and staff. The team also visited a waste management facility as well as a private hospital and companies that provide radiation-related services.

The IRRS team comprised senior experts from Cameroon, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Kenya, Pakistan, Qatar, Slovenia and Zimbabwe as well as two IAEA staff members.

“The Ethiopian Radiation Protection Authority values the IRRS mission as a means for strengthening the effectiveness of the regulatory infrastructure for nuclear and radiation safety,” ERPA Director General Solomon Getachew said. “The recommendations and suggestions made by the mission will help the ERPA to improve its functioning.”

The mission provided recommendations and suggestions, including:

  • The Government should establish a national policy for radiation safety and for the safe management of radioactive waste.
  • The Government should ensure that diagnostic reference levels, dose constraints, and criteria and guidelines for the release of patients after radiation therapy are established.
  • The ERPA should establish a requirement for employers and licensees to develop and maintain a radiation protection programme for occupational exposure.

The final mission report will be provided to the Government in about three months. Ethiopia plans to make the report public.

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