A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are in Ghana to peer review the status of the National Nuclear Power Infrastructure for the introduction of a Nuclear Power Programme.
The service, which is being provided through an Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) Mission, was upon an official request made by the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), acting on behalf of the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Organisation (GNPPO) to the IAEA.
Professor Benjamin J. B. Nyarko, the Director-General of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, at the opening ceremony of the meeting in Accra on Monday, said the process fulfils an important requirement of the IAEA’s milestone approach in the Phase I towards the establishment of a nuclear power plant.
He said the week-long activity would be co-ordinated and led by the INIR Mission Team which comprises IAEA staff and international experts drawn from member states who have experience in different aspects of developing nuclear power infrastructure in a safe, secure and sustainable manner.
The goal of the IAEA coordinated International Peer Review was to conduct a holistic evaluation of Ghana’s nuclear infrastructure on the basis of the 19 infrastructure issues to be considered for nuclear power development and sustainability and also provide suggestions and recommendations to fill gaps that may exist.
The 19 infrastructural issues involves the national position, nuclear safety, management, funding and financing, legislative frameworks, safeguard issues, radiation protection, regulatory frameworks, electric grid, and human resource development.
The rest are stakeholder involvement, site and supporting facilities, environmental protection, emergency planning, security and physical protection, nuclear fuel cycle, radioactive waste, industrial involvement, as well as procurement issues.
Prof. Nyarko said the INIR Mission would comprise interviews and discussions between the IAEA team and a panel of GNPPO members and stakeholder representatives for each of the 19 infrastructure issues.
He said the INIR service which consists of four steps involves: The preparation of a Self-Evaluation Report (SER), and if required the conduct of a SER support mission; the conduct of a Pre-INIR mission; the conduct of the major INIR mission; and then a Follow up to the INIR mission, he said.
Prof. Nyarko said prior to the present review, Ghana had to satisfy a preceding requirement of conducting and submitting a Self-Evaluation Report which was developed by the GNPPO with the active involvement of all stakeholder organisations and submitted in early April 2016 to the IAEA, with all the associated supporting documents.
He said a SER Support Mission and a Pre-INIR Mission were also conducted in 2016 and based on the contents from the SER Support Mission, Ghana’s SER was revised and re-submitted to the IAEA together with over 150 supporting documents in early December 2016.
He said the various sessions would, therefore, require total commitment by participants in order to make the process a success.
Mr Dohee Hahn, the Head of the Nuclear Infrastructure Division, IAEA, said Ghana was no newcomer to nuclear power having joined the Agency since 1960, and therefore had gained great knowledge.
He said the team required maximum support to engage with an open and transparent stakeholder involvement to be able to make its suggestions to address any gaps identified for redress.
Dr Nii Moi Thompson, the Director-General of the National Development Planning Commission, admitted that a nuclear power programme was a major undertaking requiring careful planning, preparation and investment in time and human resources.
He said while nuclear power was not alone in this respect, it needed careful consideration because of the issues associated with the possession and handling of nuclear material.
The development of a nuclear power programme entails attention to many complex and interrelated issues over a long duration and involves a commitment of at least 100 years to maintain a sustainable national infrastructure through operation, decommissioning and waste disposal.
Dr Thompson congratulated all who had been involved in the process saying the current event builds on the progress made so far, but the time has come for the nation to move beyond the building of institutional structures and turn its attention to providing the necessary infrastructure for generating nuclear energy.
He said besides assurances of safety there were other compelling reasons why nuclear should be part of the future energy mix.
These, he said, included its capacity to generate the base load electricity to drive industry, high environmental friendliness with a zero greenhouse gas emissions at the plant operation level and concord with the country’s Green Economy Agenda.