Ghana on Monday positioned itself at the frontiers of science and technology in Africa, by taking the lead to expand and refurbish a radioactive waste storage facility to secure the highly toxic material.
The facility, situated on the precinct of Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), was upgraded at the cost of $300,000 made available by the US through its Department of Energy. It would be used as a central storeroom to manage all waste emanating from the utilisation of nuclear technology in Ghana and the Sub-region.
The resource, touted by experts as one of the most high-tech and efficient plant, is the first of its kind to be installed in Africa.
Presently, radioactive waste in Ghana is generated from research, medical and industrial use of radionuclide, with records indicating that about 15 institutions utilise radioactive materials.
The largest generator of radioactive materials is the National Nuclear Research Institute through activities such as radiotherapy, nuclear medicine, pesticide research, radio-pharmacy, neutron analysis and from the gamma irradiation facility at GAEC.
“Government is fully committed to the implementation of the international legal instruments bordering on nuclear safety and security,” says Professor Edward Akaho, Director-General of GAEC at the inauguration of the facility in Accra.
“I will like to assure that nuclear safety and security will not be compromised whilst we (GAEC) pursue the development and promotion of nuclear science and technology,” he stressed.
Prof Akaho noted that with the emerging global insecurity in regard to the possible use of radioactive material by terrorists and criminal groups, it was in the interest of Ghana and the international community to identify consolidate and secure radioactive sources.
He reaffirmed the commitment and determination of GAEC to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear energy to address the socio-economic development of Ghana.
The facility is part of the US nuclear security action plan to help other countries not only to gain control over radioactive sources within their borders but to also secure nuclear operating facilities.
The US has therefore provided support for the physical protection of nuclear infrastructure at the Radiotherapy Centres at the Korle Bu and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospitals and Gamma Irradiation facility and the provision of safety equipment to security staff at such installations.
Ms Sherry Ayitey, Environment, Science and Technology Minister lauded the contribution of the US in assisting Ghana with interventions to manage nuclear techniques, calling for consistent collaboration of states to ensure nuclear safety and security.
She said the facility would facilitate the handling of nuclear waste.
Ms Ayitey said Ghana aimed to share the facility with countries in the Sub-region and fulfil all outstanding international legal frameworks.
She said two bills would be placed before Parliament, when the House resumed sitting in October.
Mr Donald Teitelbaum, US Ambassador, commended Ghana for taking the leadership role in the Sub-region on securing the use and storage of nuclear materials.
He said his country was committed to ensure the safety and security of nuclear sources and making nuclear energy globally beneficial.
He said the US would provide security equipment and scanning facilities at Aflao, Tema and Takoradi.
The US has also provided, through the Office of Global Threat Reduction, physical protection upgrade for the central source storage facility of GAEC.
The world super power nation is also assisting Ghana to develop the core elements of a nuclear/radiological emergency response programme.
The programme is expected to enhance effectiveness of emergency management system and to enable the sharing of information, data and resources and exchange of views with stake holders.