It is an undeniable fact that the prime purpose of a nuclear regulatory body is to ensure that all licensees operate their facilities and practices in a safe and secured manner at all times. This implies that every country that uses radiation and nuclear technologies for socio-economic development needs a nuclear regulatory body to ensure that within their counties, activities relating to the peaceful applications of nuclear and related technologies are carried out in a safe and secured manner in accordance with international safety and security principles and with respect of the environment and property.
The Look of an Effective Nuclear Regulatory Body
To be an effective nuclear regulator means that locally and internationally, people trust you with the assurance that you would ensure that they are protected from radiation hazards by doing the right thing well, efficiently and professionally.
Some characteristics and attributes that define an effective regulatory body are mainly an effective leadership that is able to transform strategic directions into operational programmes and clarity of regulatory roles and responsibilities, purpose, mandate and functions.
In other words, to be an effective regulator, it is imperative that all regulatory bodies carry out the following activities: define safety objectives; develop or propose and promulgate regulations; set standards and issue regulatory guides; issue or advise on the issuing of licenses and amendments; carry out inspections; undertake regulatory reviews; enforce regulatory requirements; review operating experience; observe attitudes to safety; carry out independent safety analyses; sponsor regulatory research; contribute to emergency preparedness and response; interact with stakeholders and inform the public on radiation protection and nuclear safety and interact with the international community.
In summary, a regulatory body looks or becomes effective when it is effectively independent enough to carry out the above mentioned activities, is transparent and at the same time credible and has the trust of the general public.
Becoming an Effective Nuclear Regulatory Authority in Ghana
The Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) which was established to ensure the protection of the general public, occupationally exposed workers, patients and the environment from the harmful effects of radiation in 2016 by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority Act 2015, Act 895 is the sole Authority to regulate the use of radiation in Ghana.
Prior to the establishment of NRA, the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) was responsible for carrying out this regulatory function through the Radiation Protection Board, Radiation Protection Institute.
NRA became operational on January 11, 2016 when 57 Staff of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission were transferred to the Nuclear Regulatory Authority and on January 14, 2016 the Pioneer NRA Board was inaugurated with Professor Geoffrey Emi-Reynolds as the first Ag. Director-General.
According to Prof. Emi-Reynolds, “despite the fact that the Authority has been working without a Board since December 2016; the Authority has made some strides towards becoming an independent and effective regulator mainly by building competencies.”
The development of these competencies have been possible through the collaborations with some regional and international counterparts like the Forum for African Regulatory Bodies (FNRBA), the United States of America Nuclear Regulatory Commission (US-NRC) and the Regulatory Control Forum (RCF) in the areas of drafting regulations, inspecting radiological facilities (like x-ray facilities) and nuclear power plants and for the other core functions of the Authority.
Professor Kame I. J. Aboh, the Ag. Deputy Director-General who took charge of running the Authority when Prof Emi-Reynolds went on retirement in December 2017 also says that ‘the NRA is at the point of finalizing talks with the European Commission’s International Nuclear Safety Cooperation (INSC), the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), Rostechnadzor (Russia) and the Moroccan Nuclear Regulatory Body; for the purpose of building staff competencies for the effective regulation of the radiological and nuclear facilities (like the GHARR-1 Research Reactor at the Atomic Energy Commission) in the country.
All these imply that since its establishment in 2016, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority in Ghana is aiming at becoming an effective nuclear and radiological regulator in the nuclear industry locally, regionally and internationally by developing competent nuclear professionals.
As a continuation of the good work done by his predecessors, Prof Emi-Reynolds and Prof Aboh, Dr. Nii Kwashie Allotey, the new Director-General said ‘there was the need to have a competent youthful NRA team that is capable of playing its role as a professional, effective and independent nuclear power regulator.
Dr. Allotey used to be the Director of the Nuclear Power Institute of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission.
Status of Ghana’s Nuclear Power Programme
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) regulations require that a country wishing to go nuclear must have a government agency, a regulator and the owner operator amongst other infrastructure requirements.
In Ghana’s case, the government agency, the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Organisation (GNPPO) and the regulator, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) were established in 2012 and 2016 respectively.
The NRA participated in the first Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) Mission to evaluate the status of the 19 Infrastructure Issues required for building a Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), for electricity generation for Ghana in Accra in January 2016.
The owner- operator company, the Nuclear Power Ghana Limited (NPG), was established in January 2019 as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) jointly owned by the Volta River Authority (VRA), the Bui Power Authority (BPA) and the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC).
Ghana is currently involved in siting activities for Ghana’s first nuclear power plant and is compiling the Comprehensive Report based on which government would take the decision on Ghana going nuclear.
By Sheila Victoria Gbormittah
The writer is with the Nuclear Regulatory Authority