UN urges Kenya to put in place legal framework for radiation safety

Kenya requires a legal framework for radiation safety to help strengthen the oversight of all radiation related facilities and activities in the country, a UN nuclear agency official said on Wednesday.

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“The country is currently facing challenges that could be solved once the regulatory framework is put in place,” said Javier Zarzuela, a team leader of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s Integrated Regulatory Review Service to Kenya.

Zarzuela said this in Nairobi after leading a team of 12 safety experts from IAEA in assessing what Kenya has done in the area at the request of the Kenyan government.

Zarzuela noted that even though Kenya is committed to radiation safety, there is need to have an effective independence of the Radiation Protection Board (RPB) from the government.

He said the separation of RPB from the government will enable it to make uninfluenced decisions, noting that Kenya needs to develop policy, strategy and revise and complete the national legal framework to ensure consistencies with the IAEA safety standards.

The mission was designed to strengthen the effectiveness of the national regulatory infrastructure, while recognizing the responsibility of each member state to ensure radiation and nuclear safety.

The mission commended Kenya but called on RPB to put in place mechanisms to prevent conflicts of interest in all it regulatory activities and also establish and implement an integrated management system consistent with the IAEA safety standards.

Zarzuela called on PRB to establish and publish regulations that systematically cover all types of practice using radiation sources, in particular transport of radioactive material and management of radioactive waste, emergency preparedness and response as well as the control of all categories of exposure in occupational, public and medical.

“The board also has to ensure that all radiation sources are appropriately authorized and also ensure that safety measures and nuclear security measures are designed and implemented in integrated manner,” he added.

According to Arthur Koteng, Kenya’s Assistant Chief Radiation Protection Officer, Kenya uses radiation sources in medical, industrial and research facilities.

“Nuclear radiation is used in medicine to sterilize equipment, to help in diagnosis and to treat cancer with gamma rays, high energy electromagnetic waves which are only stopped by thick lead.

He revealed that as gamma rays pass through the packaging they will inactivate viruses and kill bacteria.

Koteng added that radioactive tracers are used to investigate a patient’s body without the need for surgery.

IAEA had previously conducted 77 review missions in 67 member states including Cameroon, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The team has been in Kenya for the last 10 days. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/News Ghana

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