From 4 to 8 March, officials and experts from Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia are gathering at the HQ of the Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission (TAEC) in Arusha in order to discuss ways and means of minimising accidents and incidents involving radiological and nuclear materials. While no country on the African continent has possession of nuclear weapons, there are plans to develop nuclear energy. Also -and this presents a more immediate risk- radiological materials are used in industry and in hospitals and there is a need for careful management, so as to ensure non-exposure to radiation as well as safe and secure management of the devices involved. It is of key importance for national authorities to maintain (digital) records of radiological & nuclear agents & materials, including when these agents come to the end of their active life and are disposed. Orphan materials –i.e. radiological and nuclear devices outside the regulatory control of authorities- may present real dangers and could fall into the hands of non-state actors (‘CBRN terrorism’).
The training at TAEC HQ in Arusha will involve both table-top and field exercises, as it is important for officials from the concerned countries to practice their response to possible incidents. The exercises involve officials and experts from a number of countries, as incidents are often cross-border in nature and require officers and authorities from neighbouring countries to work together.
The European Union (EU) is funding the training course and exercises in the context of the EU Chemical, Biological, Radiological & Nuclear (CBRN) Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence (CoE) Initiative. Under the CoE Initiative, the EU is extending a helping hand to more than 60 partner countries worldwide who are committed to improving their preparedness in case of CBRN incidents and to strengthen their CBRN resilience. There is a strong emphasis on promoting a culture of safety and security and on strengthening regional co-operation, as part of a recognition that CBRN threats and risks do not respect borders and make regional and international co-operation necessary. A first objective of the EU CBRN CoE Initiative is to help partner countries ensure that the access to dangerous CBRN agents and materials is made as difficult as possible and –in particular- to keep CBRN materials out of the hands of terrorist groups.