By David Mugabe
Uganda is pushing to harness its atomic energy as an alternative source of power, a ministry of energy official has explained.
Sarah Najuna, the national liaison officer in the ministry of energy, explained that the atomic energy plans are part of the Vision 2040 that are aimed at pushing Uganda into middle income status. But, at the moment, the country is only in the planning stages.
“The nuclear power roadmap will identify sites, technologies, human resource and policies. We are training people to have a concrete plan to use nuclear power,” said Najuna.
Najuna was part of a team that hosted top officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency for a week in efforts to strengthen the regulatory infrastructure in Uganda.
During a meeting at the Imperial Royale Hotel, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) asked Uganda to do its own self-assessment as a way of improving and safeguarding radiation use in public places.
The Atomic Energy Council is the agency tasked with regulating applications of ionizing radiation to protect people and the environment.
Dr. Shadad Ibrahim from the IAEA said the review process that was requested by the Ugandan government will take between one and five years.
“We will draft agreement with the council on the action plan and how to address the gaps in the regulatory framework, if you start good with radiation, you can improve with nuclear,” said Shadad.
Deogratius Luwalira, the chief executive of the council, noted that since 2011, they have carried out 161 inspections, of which 135 are in medical, 21 in industrial and one in research. Todate, 233 licenses and permits have been issued. Also, 237 radiation workers have been monitored. But many more remain to be inspected and licensed.
Ionizing radiation is found in x-ray or CT scan facilities found in hospitals and factories and the council is asking the public to only use facilities that have been inspected by the regulator - the Atomic Energy Council.
Ionizing radiation is a form of energy which is emitted from radioactive sources and can also be generated from radiation emitting equipment such as x-ray machines used in hospitals. Short term effects include burns, nausea, loss of hair, vomiting and even death in extreme cases, depending on quantity of dose exposed.
The Uganda National Bureau of Standards chief executive, Ben Manyindo, said his agency is waiting for the radiation and atomic standards to be fully domesticated so that overall regulation is improved.
Prof. Akisopel Kisolo, the atomic council chairman, requested IAEA to come up with an extensive report on areas of improvement and strengths.
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