Looming NORM Management Crisis to Hit Ghana – RPI Warns

Ghana has been warned against a looming Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORMs) management crisis in the near future if pragmatic steps are not taken to control the situation.

The Radiation Protection Institute (RPI) under the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) made this revelation.

Speaking in an interview with the Center Manager of the Food and Environmental Monitoring Centre of RPI, Dr. Oscar Adukpo disclosed that the situation has affected some oil producing countries including Ghana’s West African neighbor Nigeria.

NORMs, also known as, Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials are typically produced from the debris of oil extraction and mining activities.

According to Dr. Adukpo, the risk is more prevalent in the oil-producing sector than the mining sector. Explaining how the situation degenerates, he said that cleaning of the Scale; (a pipe trough which crude is extracted from the oil well) is a mandatory procedure that must be observed after a period of oil extraction. “When this waste is collected from the scale, storage and deposal becomes a difficult situation to deal with”, he added.

He further explained that unlike the mining sector that may reclaim mined sites over a relatively shorter period of time, oil wells are engaged for decades and hence making it difficult to dump NORM waste. “ The waste become sizable overtime and is unbearable”, he lamented.

Stressing on the dangers it poses on public health, Dr. Adukpo pointed out that poor NORM waste management practices, may cause them to end up in streams and other water bodies, contaminating them with radioactive substances in the process. This he said affects aquatic creatures (Fishes, etc) and goes ahead into food crops if contaminated water is used to irrigate farmlands. “The underground water is also affected since surface water goes deep into the ground to recharge underground water and in effect, the boreholes within that region will be affected.

He lamented that; this can have servere health implications on the general public if borehole water is used for domestic activities (cooking, drinking, etc) and on commercial bases (Sachet water production, etc)

He disclosed that, Ghana is yet to manage NORM waste for the first time from the oil sector, but has little or no capacity in that regard.

According to him, the RPI under GAEC is able to do NORM measurement and Analysis but will require extra facilities to be able to clean oil scales and manage NORM waste.

He called on government to consider developing strategies to manage NORM waste to avoid all manner of dangers the public will be exposed to, due to poor management of NORMs.

Abandoned Masts Are Death Traps

The Manager in charge of the Health Physics and Instrumentation Centre of the RPI of Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) Dr. Owusu Banahene, has raised concerns over dangers human lives are exposed to with regards to abandoned radiofrequency and Telecommunication Masts.

Dr. Banahene who raised this concern in an interview, disclosed that, some disused masts are dilapidated, due to neglect by the owners.

The Health Physics and Instrumentation Centre, which is under the Radiation Protection Institute (RPI) of GAEC is responsible for safety assessment of radiofrequency base station as well as mobile phone based stations.

According to the manager, rusty masts can easily be pulled down by rainstorms, making them more life threatening to the public. He added that in spite of their dangers, such masts do not emit any useful radio frequency radiation, since they no longer function.

Touching on issues of radiation exposure and public safety with regards to Masts in general, Dr. Banahene said the RPI has been vibrant and proactive in checking the levels of emission to ensure that they do not exceed national and international levels.

He said, an immediate action would be taken to control the extent of radiation exposure should test results go beyond the expected range. “So far, we are yet to encounter any of such cases where the measured radiation emitted by a radiofrequency and mobile phone base stations is above recommended levels”, he added.

To ensure absolute public safety, Dr. Banahene called on the public to desist from running their activities directly under radiofrequency and mobile phone base stations. He stressed that the amount of time spent around the mast will determine the amount of radiation one could be exposed to. “Keeping a distance away can help save one from radiation exposure”, he explained.

Throwing more light on other responsibilities of the Health Physics and Instrumentation Centre, the Manager said his outfit is also responsible for monitoring of occupationally exposed workers, calibration of radiation measuring devices such as survey meters, contamination monitors and ionization chambers which are used for the detection and measurement of certain types of ionizing radiation (X-rays).

He urged the public to be quick in consulting the RPI at the least suspicions of any radiation exposure.

Let’s not Kill the One District One Factory Vision with Energy Crisis – Prof. Nyarko Advices

The Director General of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) Prof. Benjamin Nayrko has hinted that the “One District One Factory” initiative may face severe setbacks if recommendations made by energy experts are not taken into consideration.

The Director General made this revelation at his inaugural lecture as a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, on the topic “Access to sustainable and Affordable Energy for all; the role of Nuclear Energy”.

According to him, the energy demand will triple across the country when the “One district One Factory” initiative comes into full force. This he said will threaten the growth of the initiative if Ghana does not settle on affordable and reliable energy supply.

He recommended that Ghana went Nuclear in order to meet the industrial energy demand. “Even though solar is also an alternative source of energy, it may not generate enough to meet industrial demand”, he added

Speaking on the anxiety that grips many at the mention of nuclear power, Prof. Nyarko said, “to everything system there is a disadvantage. What matters most is to ensure that, such disadvantages are well managed”. He added that, despite the Fukushima nuclear accident Japan has not given up on nuclear power because of its benefits.

He charged the public to conduct individual research to ascertain for themselves the type of energy that is most reliable and suitable to solve Ghana’s challenges. “The fact that we have enough sunshine is not a guarantee that solar energy can solve all energy related problems in Ghana”, he stressed.

He advised Government to consider recommendations made by its advisory bodies on energy including GAEC in order to meet future energy demands.

GSMP Marks International Day for Medical Physics

The Ghana Society for Medical Physics (GSMP) has held a symposium in Accra to commemorate this year’s International Day for Medical Physics (IDMP).

The Symposium was under the theme, “Providing a Holistic Approach to Women Patient and Women Staff Safety in Radiation Medicine”. The programme saw the presence of Nuclear Scientists, Medical Doctors, Medical Physicists, and Students from Second Cycle schools and Tertiary Institutions among others.

The International Day of Medical Physics is an event held annually to raise awareness on the Profession of Medical Physics.

Speaking on the topic, “Female Medical Physicist: Global and Regional Perspectives”, Ms. Theresa Dery a Medical Physicist and research scientist at the Radiological and Medical Sciences Research Institute (RAMSRI) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GEAC), disclosed that Ghana has a total of 16 female Medical Physicists with only 6 currently practicing. According to her, four are yet to graduate and the other six are interns.

“Out of the six female Medical Physicits, two are in the clinical field, two in research and the remaining two in academia”, she said

Ms. Dery, who was the second female Medical Physicist to graduate from the Graduate School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences (SNAS), described the current state of affairs as unfortunate.

She blamed the situation on gender inequality and job security issues for females in such a field of study. She recommended that, there should be more scholarship programmes to sponsor females interested in the Medical Physics profession in order to produce more.

She finally called for Mathematics and Science clinics to be extended to basic schools to ensure a fertile foundation for young female students.

The Director of RAMSRI, GAEC, Prof. Mary Boadu, who delivered a speech on the theme for the celebration, called for a massive advocacy and public education outreach on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) via radio, television and print media, particularly on breast cancer awareness.

Prof. Boadu was optimistic that the financial burden on government and individuals, with respect to breast cancer treatment will reduce if health journalists and other media persons, as well as other groups such as Market women are thoroughly educated on NCDs to ensure early diagnosis.

She finally called for an increase in the number of regional and selected district hospitals for cervical cancer screening services.

Gov’t to Regulate Private Partnership Deals With State Research Institutions

The Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Environment Science Technology and Innovation (MESTI) has advanced plans to regulate private partnership deals with state research institutions.

The development is aimed at ensuring that the state retains ownership of findings after a research activity.

The special assistant to the Minister of MESTI, Mr. Oliver Boakye, disclosed this on his recent working visit to the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), on behalf of his boss, Prof. Frimpong Boateng.

Shedding light on challenges that may arise regarding scientific research, the Director of Biotechnology and Nuclear Agricultural Research Institute (BNARI), Prof. Kenneth Ellis Danso, noted that inadequate funds for research is having a toll on the activities of GAEC.

He lamented that findings arrived at, after a research works, become the assets of funding agencies. He described the situation as unfortunate.

The Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute is into Plant tissue culture, that is, the production or multiplication of plants in large quantities using various parts of the plant.
The Minister’s Special Assistant, Mr. Boakye, noted that MESTI is working on a regulatory framework to ensure that all partnership deals with GAEC regarding research is properly negotiated to ensure a win – win situation.

According to him, the state must derive enormous benefits from research conducted by its research institutions. This he said will bring value to the country in the area of science and technology

Mr. Boakye hinted that Government through MESTI, would consider providing research funds to GAEC and other state research institutions to ensure that research findings are solely owned by the state. He added that private agencies and individuals would have to consult the Ministry regarding partnerships into specific areas of research.

He lauded the efforts of GAEC for making several research breakthroughs (eg, High beta carotene cassava, high yielding yams, and fall army worm breakthroughs) that solve societal problems. He charged Directors of the Commission to insist on achieving results, irrespective of their challenges.

Mr. Boakye toured the GAEC Compost Plant, The Gamma Irradiation Facility, Tissue Culture laboratory among others for firsthand information.