Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Senior Reporter
Zimbabwe has been commended for strengthening the regulatory processes and improving the management of radiation safety in line with international safety standards and good practices.
This comes as the Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team recently began a week-long International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) follow-up mission to review the progress made in implementing recommendations and suggestions made to the Government and the Radiation Protection Authority of Zimbabwe (RPAZ) during the initial mission in 2014.
These were meant to help strengthen the effectiveness of the country’s regulatory framework and functions in line with IAEA Safety Standards.
Speaking at a meeting to mark the beginning of the mission, team leader Ms Patricia Holahan said although there were some outstanding issues, Zimbabwe had complied with most of the IRRS recommendations.
“We had several recommendations and suggestions and we think from the first impressions, we will manage to close most of them.
“There are some that are still open, but we are still evaluating that to see if we can close them, but they (RPAZ) have definitely made progress,” she said.
Ms Holahan said some of the recommendations included the creation of a national policy and strategy for radiation protection, separation of the technical from the regulatory body, and having more procedures to comply with medical standards, which Zimbabwe has already done.
“Zimbabwe had not joined a lot of international conventions but they have made progress in that. They joined the Joint Convention for Radiation spent fuel waste and storage so that was a major accomplishment.
“They also developed a national programme for emergency response,” said Ms Holahan.
RPAZ chief executive Mr Justice Chipuru said Zimbabwe had joined several safety conventions in 2021 with a further eight conventions still under consideration by Cabinet.
“Similarly, Government is funding the construction of a facility to manage disused radioactive sources from various industries around the country to make sure that these are safely and securely managed.
“Zimbabwe has no capacity to dispose of radioactive material so we have a policy of return to supplier. If anyone is to import any radioactive material, they should have an agreement to repatriate these after use.
“This is an interim management facility where we keep radioactive sources safely so that there is no inadvertent exposure to the users and that we are aware that all our radiation sources are safely managed all the time,” said Mr Chipuru.
Public outreach programmes were also aimed to educate the public on the effects of radiation as well as the benefits accrued using radiation technology were explained.
Mr Chipuru said the authority was alive to the possibility of radioactive material coming into the country through imported goods and was taking measures at all ports of entry to ensure that no contaminated vehicles got in.
“We have established infrastructure at the ports of entry and exits where we do contamination monitoring and specifically on food and imported vehicles from countries that have might have a possibility of contamination.
“We have a proper framework to ward off importation of materials that would not have come through the official Government clearance processes,” said Mr Chipuru.
Secretary for Monitoring and Evaluation in the Office of the President, Mr Albert Chikondo, said the follow-up mission had come at an opportune time when the focus of the nation was the attainment of Vision 2030.
A high quality of life presumes the absence or limitation of adverse health effects and this is where a robust and effective radiation safety framework would contribute through the elimination of deterministic effects and reducing the risk of stochastic effects such as cancer of using radiation sources, he said.
He said the RPAZ strategic plan, which was aligned to the National Development Strategy 1, was aimed at further improving the regulatory infrastructure with a focus on public and environmental exposure control.