Ghana’s Groundwater Reserves Threatened by Illegal Mining Activities

The Nuclear Chemistry and Environmental Research Centre (NCERC) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) has warned that the country’s groundwater reserves risk being contaminated if pragmatic steps are not taken to regulate illegal gold mining activities across the mining regions.

This was disclosed in an interview by The Manager of NCERC Dr. Samuel Afful. According to him, the constant pollution of surface water bodies by illegal mining activities may also lead to groundwater pollution

The NCERC conducts environmental research which focuses on groundwater/surface water quality monitoring, soil and air quality monitoring, pesticide residue in food and other biological samples, as well as environmental remediation. The Centre employs nuclear techniques such as stable isotope hydrology and atomic absorption spectroscopy in its work.

Contaminated Water bodies by illegal mining

Surface water and groundwater interaction

According to Dr. Afful, Surface water and groundwater interaction is a natural process where nearly all surface-water features (rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs, wetlands, and estuaries) sink deep into the soil layers to interact with groundwater.

He said, in most  situations, surface-water bodies gain water and solutes from groundwater systems and in others the surface-water body is a source of groundwater recharge that leads to a change in groundwater quality.

Dr. Afful stressed that the diversion of water courses for mining activities may affect groundwater recharge. He further stated that overdependence on groundwater for household or commercial use due to diversion/pollution of surface water may lead to groundwater depletion. This results in existing wells and boreholes running dry.

Considering these facts, effective land and water management requires a clear understanding of the linkages between groundwater and surface water as it applies to any given hydrologic setting. He added.

Effects

“Undeniably, several health, social, and economic effects have been linked to gold mining activities that lack proper regulation. The common challenge known to everyone is the pollution of surface water (river bodies) and the environment.”  He indicated that, there is more to it than pollution of river bodies.

This he said has affected aquatic creatures (Fishes) and hampered agricultural activities in the affected regions.

Throwing light on other areas that has severely affected humanity as a result; he mentioned some widely-known social vices such as teenage pregnancy, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s) and the ill-reputed school dropout syndrome as a menace that cannot be left out.

Stressing on the main point, he explained that, the groundwater is also polluted by the already contaminated “surface water” in the process of recharging.

Expressing worry at the situation, the Manager of NCERC hinted that, boreholes that become an alternative water source for mining communities are most likely to be exposed to toxic substances.  The rippling effect to humanity according to him is damaging since some sachet water (pure water) producing companies mainly resort to groundwater for their water production and is subsequently sold to unsuspecting consumers across country.

Dr. Afful lamented that, the common water treatment method used by the sachet and bottled water industry in Ghana is filtration. According to him, this method does not take out the heavy metal contaminants in the water.

He called for proper scientific treatment of surface and groundwater in the mining regions and non-mining regions that resort to the use of chemicals in fishing.

Remediation

“The next generation has nothing to live on if proper water treatment method and effective remediation procedure is not used to reclaim mined areas”. He lamented

He said, GAEC has the capacity to carry out water quality monitoring and treatment.

Speaking on land reclamation prospects. Dr. AfFul is of the view that, proper remediation procedure is required to restore the fertility of the land in order to support plant growth.  

Giving some recommendations on way forward, he advised that, Sunflower and Acacia plants are grown on mined concessions to help remove toxic materials from the soil. This he said will help the land to regain its fertility for agriculture purposes.

CNS: Review Meeting Identifies Ideas to Improve Nuclear Safety

The Seventh Review Meeting of Contracting Parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety was held from 27 March to 7 April 2017 at the IAEA Headquarters, in Vienna, Austria. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Contracting Parties highlighted the importance of sustaining and enhancing a nuclear safety culture, maintaining effective legal frameworks, and enforcing safety precautions within the supply chain following a two-week review of nuclear power plant safety.

Following intensive discussions and reflections on the national reports of nuclear safety programmes from 79 countries, delegates at the Seventh Review Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS), identified and offered ideas to ensure achievement of high levels of safety. These included ideas to address financial and human resource constraints, safety concerns related to ageing nuclear facilities, and the need for harmonized cross-border emergency planning approaches.

In their Summary Report released at the close of the 27 March – 7 April meeting, Contracting Parties also encouraged the IAEA to continue developing guidance to help countries strengthen regulatory body oversight and practice safety culture.

“Maintaining nuclear sagety requires long-term commitment and vigilance from countries, as well as effective mechanisms for early detection and assessment of problems and networks for sharing lessons learned,” said Juan Carlos Lentijo, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security.

Referring to the need to maintain oversight of the supply chain to ensure safety, he said.

“This is a common issue both for countries operating nuclear power plants and those considering nuclear power programmes, because of the lack of availability of identical replacement parts and the need to be able to detect non-conforming, counterfeit, suspect or fraudulent items. Furthermore, with the number of nuclear-grade certified suppliers diminishing, access to manufacturers able to meet nuclear standards will become more challenging.”

Contracting Parties acknowledged the value of the CNS review meetings and other voluntary international peer review processes in encouraging continuous self-assessment and improvement.

“These processes effectively unearth the wealth of experience that countries have on nuclear safety issues, and this is helpful for both countries operating nuclear power plants and those just embarking on nuclear programmes,” said Ramzi Jammal, President of the Review Meeting and Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission “It is important for the IAEA and other organisations to cooperate to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of these reviews.”

Obligations under the CNS

The Convention entered into force on 24 October 1996, setting international benchmarks in the areas of nuclear installation siting, design, construction and operation, as well as financial and human resources, safety assessment and verification, quality assurance and emergency preparedness. It requires Contracting Parties to report on their implementation of obligations under the Convention and subject these reports to peer review by other Parties.

In its first decade, CNS Review Meetings focused heavily on specific technical safety issues. In recent years, the focus has shifted to continuous improvement of nuclear safety.

The CNS Contracting Parties hold Review Meetings every three years. The 8th Review Meeting will take place in 2020.

DG’s Welcome Address: Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review Mission – Phase 1

WELCOME ADDRESS BY PROF. B.J.B. NYARKO, DEPUTY GNPPO CHAIRMAN AND DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE GHANA ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION, ON THE OPENING CEREMONY OF GHANA’S PHASE 1 INTEGRATED NUCLEAR INFRASTRUCTURE REVIEW (INIR) MISSION; JANUARY 16- JANUARY 23, 2017.

Mr. Chairman

Dr. Nii Moi Thompson, CEO of NDPC

Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency

GNPPO Board members

Chief Executive Officers and Institutional Reps.

Directors of Various Institutes

Representatives from the various stakeholder Organisations

Friends from the media

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

It is a great honor and privilege for me to welcome you to the opening ceremony of Ghana’s phase 1 Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review mission. Let me use this opportunity, on behalf of Ghana and the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Organisation, to extend my warm welcome to the team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency and all participants.

The goal of this IAEA coordinated International peer review is to conduct a holistic evaluation of Ghana’s nuclear infrastructure on the basis of 19 Infrastructure issues of NPP development and subsequently provide suggestion and recommendations to fill gaps that may exist.

It is worth noting that Ghana satisfied a preceding requirement of conducting and submitting a self-evaluation report (SER) to the IAEA.

Mr. Chairman, we satisfied this requirement with serious focus on the quality of the Self Evaluation Report and the active involvement of all relevant stakeholder organisations. It is gratifying to note that as a country, we were far advanced with the assessment of our 19 infrastructure issues when we made an official request to the IAEA on 3rd December 2015  to carry out the Phase 1 integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review Mission (INIR).

I am very happy to inform you that Ghana had a preliminary INIR mission from August 8 to August 10, 2016 and we are hopeful that the general conclusions and recommendations from the IAEA experts would make this main mission a better one.

The IAEA team of experts will give a briefing on the mission implementation and agenda at the opening session and there would be discussions and interviews between and among IAEA experts and GNPPO stakeholder representatives for each of the nineteen (19) infrastructure issues.

Mr. Chairman, may I assure participants that there would be long sessions that will require total commitment and attention and these will culminate in the exit meeting where results and recommendations would be discussed.

Mr. Chairman, it is a well-known fact that a large number of people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity, and for those that have access, reliability, sustainability and cost issues have become very compelling. Indeed, almost every problem facing a developing nation is also an energy access problem: agriculture, health, education, lack of productive industries for economic growth among others.

Ghana’s growing energy demand, worsened by rapid population growth, industrialization and major infrastructural development, requires a comprehensive assessment of our energy infrastructure, available energy sources and how they could be exploited in the short, medium and long-term.

Our quest to find a lasting solution to our energy problems has brought into perspective nuclear energy and our first President’s vision on energy. Our focus on the United Nation’s sustainable development goal seven (7) which emphasises access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all and indeed the effect sustainable energy would have on the other goals cannot be gainsaid.

The revitalization of our first President’s vision of exploiting nuclear energy for electricity generation started with the setting up of a Presidential Committee in 2007 known as the Adjei Bekoe Committee, which was tasked to advice government on the potential use of nuclear energy for electricity generation in Ghana.

Mr. Chairman, the compelling and instructive conclusions of the Committee’s report, which led to Cabinet’s decision in 2008 to include nuclear energy into Ghana’s energy mix, are:

  1. A decision by the country to explore nuclear energy for electricity generation would be natural progression in the country’s technological advancement;
  2. The introduction of nuclear power in Ghana’s fuel supply mix will improve our energy security and would be vital in sustaining the energy requirements of a middle income economy.

The Committee also recommended the setting up of a Presidential Commission on Nuclear Power Development (PCNPD) to prepare a draft Nuclear Power Policy and terms of reference for the additional technical and financial feasibility studies; the establishment of a legal framework and regulatory body; accedence to international agreements relating to non-proliferation, physical protection, nuclear safety and security as well as civil liability regime.

Mr. Chairman, it is gratifying to note that the government of Ghana subsequently set up Ghana’s NEPIO, Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Organisation. The government passed a comprehensive nuclear law, NRA Act, 2015 (Act 895) which preceded the establishment of an independent regulatory authority. Ghana, with the help of GNPPO’s legal stakeholder institutions and with the support of the IAEA, has acceded to a lot of international conventions and instruments in connection with non-proliferation, physical protection, nuclear safety, and security.

We know as a nation we can, and must pursue all the possible energy sources that are affordable, sustainable and reliable, while paying attention to carbon emissions and climate change concerns.

We are aware of the tremendous effort required, and the large investment costs and human capacity building but we are encouraged by the vision of our first President, the commitment of our governments and the enthusiasm and industry of our NEPIO, the jobs we will create, the foreign investment we will send to rural areas and the contribution we will make to reducing climate change. I dare say we simply cannot disappoint with the second opportunity to add Nuclear energy to our energy mix, after the efforts of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah our first President.

It is important to state our commitment to safety, security and safeguards requirements and for which reason the IAEA’S methodology of covering 19 key infrastructure issues, in 3 phases and with 3 milestones, is critical to us.

Mr. Chairman let me refer to a quote from Jessie Owens: “We all have dreams but in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.” It is the industry and tiring efforts of the GNPPO and NPI that has brought as this far. We acknowledge every member of the GNPPO for their individual and collective efforts that have made this dream a reality. Vince Lombardi, a former American footballer said “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary”. This quote has indeed found a practical meaning.

Mr. Chairman, when people have worked so hard, it is difficult to find words to encourage them to do more but I have found one; perseverance!!!             That is what will take us to the finishing line and what posterity will cherish.

Before I conclude, may I express our appreciation to the IAEA and their experts for their support and to encourage Ghana’s NEPIO to continue with the good work.  Much appreciations to our sponsors: the Volta River Authority, Environmental Protection Agency, Tropical Cable and Conductor Ltd, Asanko Gold Gh. Ltd Project, Berock Ventures Ltd, Ghana Chamber of Mines, Engineering Services Providers Co. Ltd and Cornerstone Capital Advisors Ltd.

Finally, on behalf of Ghana and the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Organization, I welcome you all to Ghana’s first Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review mission. I wish you all fruitful discussions and look forward to having outcomes that will help propel us into the next phase of the programme.

Thank you for your attention.

INIR Mission Brief: Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review Mission – Phase 1

In December 2015, the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) acting on behalf of the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Organisation (GNPPO) requested the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry out a Phase 1 Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) Mission in Ghana, which the IAEA agreed to conduct in January 2017.

The INIR service is designed to assist Member States, upon request, in evaluating the status of their national infrastructure for the introduction of a nuclear power programme or the expansion of an existing one. The INIR service is coordinated and led by the IAEA and conducted by a team of IAEA staff and international experts drawn from Member States who have experience in different aspects of developing nuclear power infrastructure in a safe, secure and sustainable manner.

The first INIR mission was conducted in 2009, and so far, twenty one (21) of them (Phase 1 or Phase 2 or a Follow-up of a previous INIR mission) have been conducted in 15 Member States. Of these, four (4) were in Africa: namely, South Africa (2013, Phase 2), Nigeria (2015, Phase 2), Kenya (2015, Phase 1), and Morocco (2016, Phase 1). The

Ghana INIR mission and associated activities are supported by the Government of Ghana and the IAEA through the national Technical Cooperation Project GHA2003 “Establishing Nuclear Power Infrastructure for Electricity Generation (Phase III)”.

The INIR mission seeks to perform an independent and objective review of the status of the 19 nuclear infrastructure issues in Ghana for Phase 1 of the programme, and is not intended to be an external audit or endorsement of the country’s nuclear power programme. Its main goal is to help Ghana determine the status of its nuclear power infrastructure and identify areas needing further action and assistance, and thereby assist Ghana and its programme partners to focus on needed actions to enable the achievement of the Phase 1 milestone.

The INIR service consists of 4-steps, namely: 1) The preparation of a Self-Evaluation Report (SER), and if required the conduct of a SER support mission; 2) the conduct of a Pre-INIR mission; 3) the conduct of the INIR mission; and 4) the Follow-up to the INIR mission. Ghana’s initial SER was submitted in early April 2016 with associated supporting documents, and a SER support mission and a Pre-INIR mission were conducted in August 2016. Based on comments from the SER support mission, Ghana’s SER was revised and re-submitted with supporting documents in early December 2016.

Ghana signs its third Country Programme Framework (CPF) for 2017 – 2021

signing2Dr. Kwaku Aning, Governor of Ghana, IAEA Board of Governors and Mr Dazhu Yang, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Technical Cooperation, have signed the Ghana Country Programme Framework (CPF) for the period of 2017 – 2021 on 28 September 2016.

A CPF is the frame of reference for the medium-term planning of technical cooperation between a Member State and the IAEA and identifies priority areas where the transfer of nuclear technology and technical cooperation resources will be directed to support national development goals.

Ghana has been an IAEA Member State since 1960. Its 2017 – 2021 CPF identifies 8 priority areas:

1. Food and agriculture
2. Human health and nutrition
3. Water resources and environment
4. Energy and nuclear power development
5. Human resource development and education
6. Industrial applications
7. Nuclear and radiation safety and nuclear security
8. Radioactive safety and waste managementgroup