Minister Nankabirwa launches new laws to regulate Atomic Energy in Uganda

The Minister of Energy and Mineral Development in Uganda, Hon. Ruth Nankabirwa has formally launched the Atomic Energy (Security of radioactive materials) regulations, 2021.

The occasion for the launch took place yesterday Tuesday at Skys Hotel Naguru, and it was attended by representatives from Uganda Police Force (UPF), Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF), Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), and other distinguished guests.

The launch was in correlation with Section 73 of the Atomic Energy Act 2008 Laws of Uganda, which empowers the Atomic Energy Council to issue regulations for better putting into effect, the provisions of the act.

These regulations were gazetted on August 6th, 2021, and they contain terms for inspection of facilities with radioactive materials, general requirements, and specific requirements for security of radioactive materials on the grade approach, basing on the category of the material.

The prime aim of the regulations is to specify the requirements for security, the production, operation, processing , handling, usage, storage, disposal and related activities involving radioactive material associated facilities.

In that respect therefore, Uganda having ratified the International Atomic Energy Agency statute of 1957 has to comply with its standards, which among others include ensuring the peaceful use of nuclear energy, safe transportation and handling of radioactive material, to suit the intended purpose.

While addressing guests at the launch, Hon. Nankabirwa declared her sincere regard for the AEC, including its tremendous achievements in fostering the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and to avoid harm during the use, storage and transportation, which is the fulcrum of its mandate.

“I attach great importance to Atomic Energy Council and the work that you are doing and I pledge to champion the cause, until you achieve what you want to achieve, you have to achieve the preparedness, the international preparedness that you want,” Nankabirwa declared.

She told guests that the regulations drafted by the EAC define the requirements that should be complied with, for purposes of enhancing a nuclear security regime in Uganda, and also underlined the President’s appreciation for the work done by the nuclear regulatory body.

According to Hon. Nankabirwa, these regulations are also intended to reduce the misuse of nuclear energy, which may have wider undesirable ramifications, and also curb vandalism masterminded by metal scrap dealers, who steal radioactive equipments and sell them for money.

“Despite the peaceful application, there are malicious people, who may want to use these radioactive sources for non peaceful purposes such as development of dirty bombs, development of radiological disspasive devices, malicious exposure to people, contamination of water, and food sources among others. There are bad people in the world , people who died long ago and they even say that nze naffa dda,” she warned.

Also speaking during the launch, the Chief Executive Officer for Atomic Energy Council, Dr.Noah Deogratious Luwalira told the guests that being party to International Atomic Energy Agency, Uganda has to comply with nuclear regulations, including atomic energy and radioactive material security.

“The energy regulations issued in 2012 had security requirements that had been superceded by international atomic energy agencies, nuclear security series no11-g and this calls for the preparation of stand alone regulation of security of radioactive materials,” Dr Luwalira told the guests.

“The regulations apply to radioactive materials in category one to four, however, they do not apply to nuclear material and radioactive materials in transport,” added Dr. Luwalira and also issued a stern warning that non compliance to these security regulations will attract serious reprisals from responsible authorities in Uganda, including fines, jail sentences or revocation of licenses.

The board Chairman for AEC, Dr. Akisophel Kisolo lauded minister Nankabirwa for attaching a lot of value and importance to the work done by AEC, by making it to the launch, despite her busy schedule, which according to him portrays the state’s maximum commitment to supporting the nuclear regulatory body, while executing its activities.

“We are extremely happy Hon minister that you have spared an opportunity to come and launch these regulations. Council continues to adopt specific regulations to address existing applications and new and oncoming applications to the country,” Dr. Kisolo told the guests.

Most importantly, he emphasized that to be able to regulate the use of nuclear energy, AEC works with stakeholders within the country, including the Energy Ministry, the parliamentary council which guides on the development of the guidelines, and authorized licensed operators.

About Atomic Energy Council

Uganda enacted the Atomic Energy Act no. 24 in 2008, to help regulate the peaceful application of ionizing radiation, and also establish the Atomic Energy Council, to provide for the protection and safety of individuals, society and environment from the dangers which result from ionizing radiation.

Today, Uganda has up to 192 radioactive materials in its inventory, and these are used in medicine for diagnosis and treatment of diseases including cancer, in manufacturing, industries and road construction among others.

These can lead to adverse effects if not properly and securely used in these operations, for they can occur immediately or show up later after exposure, such as radiation burns, cell mutation causing cancer, and in extreme cases death, depending on the amount of doze to the absorbed or exposed person.
Suffice to note, radioactive materials are globally regulated under the mandate of International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations body that was established in 1957, to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and prohibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.

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