Mandatory regulation of nuclear tech in the offing

The Atomic Radiation Regulatory Authority (Aera) has said all institutions dealing with nuclear technology in any form will be regulated.

Speaking ahead of Aera launch in Lilongwe, the regulator’s acting executive director Victoria Kachimera said the move is expected to enhance sanity and safety in the industry.

An X-ray machine at Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe

She said if left unregulated, the impact of ionising technology could yield long-term harmful effects on human health, the environment and economy.

Said Kachimera: “These technologies are good for an economy because now we are talking about development of drought- tolerant crops being developed with radiation. If the trials were to succeed, you can imagine the benefits to the economy. But, ionizing technology can as well have harmful effects on human health and the environment.

“We look at the people working in the hospital, for example, doing X-ray diagnosis. We can only be exposed to a certain amount of radiation per year beyond which it can be dangerous. But, at the same time, we are not stopping the use of that technology, we just wanted it to be in a secure and safe manner.”

In her paper, Investigation of the Status of Occupational Radiation Protection in Malawian Hospitals last year, Getrude Chinangwa and colleagues established that there is lack of implementation of basic elements of occupational radiation protection which is a result of the absence of a regulatory authority in the country as well as limitation of resources in the facilities.

The study recommended radiographers training in radiation protection, establishment of a regulatory authority in the country, consistent dose assessment, quality control tests and structural shielding assessment in these and probably all the diagnostic facilities in Malawi.

Chinangwa observed that radiation safety measures in radiological facilities will ultimately contribute to the achievement of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number three on good health and well-being as well as number eight on decent work and economic growth.

Aera was established through Atomic Energy Act Number 16 of 2011.

The mandate of Aera is to protect people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. n

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