A team of IAEA Experts has concluded a two- day fact finding Mission visit to major scrap metal yards/ sites in Nigeria

The mission was initiated upon a request for assistance from the Nigerian Government through the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA) with regard to alleged dangerous radioactive source discovered in shipment of scrap metal suspected to have been shipped/Exported from Nigeria to Rotterdam, Netherland and at the port of Hamburg, Germany.

The IAEA Assistance Mission Leader,  Kilian  Smith said that the key objectives of the mission was in response to Nigeria’s request for assistance and to determine possible actions to be taken by Nigeria in relation to the discovered dangerous radiological sources at scrap metal facilities in Rotterdam, Netherlands and at the port of Hamburg, Germany. He further said the mission will also provide advice on strategies to prevent further occurrences of such actions.

The mission later carried out comprehensive inspections to three major scrap metal yards in  order to ascertained support and assistance required in such facilities and also to gather a firsthand information from scrap metal dealers/ waste pickers. (Scavengers) on their level of awareness

Three major Scrap metal yards were visited during the tour. They were: Gidan Kwali scrap metal yard, Ojota  located on the suburb of Lagos which is considered to be one of the largest scrap metal yards in Africa others are Gatankowa Market scrap metal yard and Sakamori- Odo-eran scrap metal site also in Lagos State.

During the visit, the team from IAEA held several interactions and engagement with the leadership of the National Association of Scrap and Waste Dealer Employer of Nigeria (NASWDEN).

Speaking to the IAEA experts, the Lagos state chairman of NASWDEN Comrade Friday Oku said, the association is  grateful to both the NNRA and the IAEA for considering it necessary to visit and enlighten their members and promised to always work hand in hand with both organizations to ensure effective regulatory control in the industry .

Supporting the chairman’s statement, the association secretary, Comrade Adedotun Adewale assured the NNRA of full participation in all NNRA programmes and activities that relate to scrap metal he further appealed to the NNRA to embark on awareness programme to educate the association as a lot of their members are not aware of the danger and risk involved.

The Director General/CEO of the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority, Dr Yau .Usman  Idris through his   representative Dr. N.A. Bello, General Manger,  Nuclear Safety, Physical security and safeguards informed  the gathering in his paper presentation tagged “ Management of Disused Sources in Nigeria current Action and Future Plans”, that the NNRA was established by the Nuclear Safety and radiation  protection Act 19 of 1995, with the overall responsibility for regulating radiological protection of workers, patients and the public, nuclear safety, security and safeguards.

The DG/CEO further stated that safety and security of radioactive sources and nuclear materials are guaranteed through an effective regulatory control programme’. He noted that in order to have an effective regulatory regime in the control of Scrap metal, the NNRA is constantly engaging several stakeholders in the Scrap metal industry, from handlers to the dealers.

He stated that the NNRA ensured that Radiation Portal Monitor (RPM) is installed in strategic point to stop possible illicit and unlawful trafficking of radioactive materials in or out of Nigeria.

He reiterated (Nigeria’s) NNRA commitment to continue to work closely with the IAEA, the Netherland and German Government to ensure effective monitoring and control in the scrap metal business. 

The mission visit to the scrap metal yards shows that all scrap metal sites visited were safe and secure, but there is urgent need to put in place strategies for effective control and checks.

Over Forty participants and organizations took part in the mission comprising of key stakeholders such as the Nigerian Customs Service, Nigerian Police Force (EOD) unit, DSS, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the INTERPOL, National Association of Scrap and Waste Dealer Employer of Nigeria (NASWDEN) and the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA).

An official report on the mission is expected to be submitted after two weeks.

At the end of the two- day fact finding mission, the following recommendations were jointly agreed upon by all the participants and the IAEA as working paper:

  • The Netherlands and Germany to continue to work in collaboration with Nigeria to identify the type of device the radioactive sources came from and to determine its origin.  In particular, to establish whether the consignment in question was packed in Nigeria or in another country, with the aim of helping to prevent recurrence.
  • Nigeria to perform an audit of all their relevant radiation detectors currently available for use, also perform a needs analysis; perform a gap analysis to identify further radiation detector requirements.
  • Nigeria to classify all scrapyards in Nigeria based on sites being divided into large, medium and small scale; these scrapyards should then be surveyed regularly for radioactive items at intervals of 6 months, 1 year and two years respectively. The schedule of the initial surveys should be prepared ASAP and the initial survey for large and medium scrapyards should be performed by Q3 2019.
  • Nigeria to review the relevant legislation and the national emergency response plan for radiological emergencies in accordance with the Requirement 4, “Hazard assessment” in GSR Part 7.  The aim is to establish clear responsibilities and operational arrangements for a national effective and coordinated response to radioactive sources in scrap metal.
  • Nigeria to review the system of accreditation of radiation protection experts (RPEs), and:
    • Promote the use of accredited RPEs
    • Take account of international best practice on RPE accreditation
    • Publish the list of accredited RPEs so that it is readily available to any operator in need of RP advice.
  • Nigeria to regularly review (and identify needs in these areas) :
    • The radiation safety training provided to personnel who might be responding to incidents involving radioactivity in scrap metal
    • The competence of NNRA staff who may be involved in response to incidents involving radioactivity in scrap metal to ensure that they are consistent with the standards expected of RPEs
    • Explore the provision of trained specialist NNRA teams with specialist training for staff responding to RPM alarms.
  • In addition to steps taken under the NSDA, Nigeria to apply the following elements of a safety-driven approach to mitigating the risks associated with radioactive sources in scrap metal:
    • Protection of Nigerian steel industry sites
    • Protection of workers and the public in Nigerian metals recycling industries
    • Management of risks arising from consignments in transit from other states
  • Nigeria to:
    • Continue to provide and sustain training of NNRA staff who may be involved in response to incidents involving radioactivity in scrap metal to ensure that they are consistent with the standards expected of RPEs
    • Provide specialist training for NNRA staff responding to RPM alarms
    • Training to ensure the safety of port officials and customs officers who may become involved in incidents involving radioactivity in scrap metal.
  • Nigeria to ensure radiometric protection of the strategic national steel industry by installing and maintaining an appropriate radiation portal system at essential sites.
  • NNRA, in consultation with the NASWDEN, to extend training for scrapyard workers that includes:
    • Awareness and understanding of radiation effects and the radiation trefoil
    • Regular replacement in scrapyards of a poster illustrating the range of radioactive devices that might be encountered
    • Provision of a suitable information leaflet at frequent intervals (at least yearly)
    • Nigeria to continue outreach activities informing scrap metal workers (and members of the public) on dangers associated with radioactive sources
    • NNRA to create a set of simple exercises to demonstrate the effectiveness of their outreach activities.
  • NNRA and Customs must collaborate to ensure appropriate interventions on: (1) other countries consignments in transit through Nigeria; and (2) consignments originating in Nigeria
    • This should rely on complementary powers of the two organizations
    • NNRA to continue to advise Customs and other relevant stakeholder organizations on capacity building to ensure the safety of Customs and Port staff
  • Nigeria to ensure that regulations should emphasize that finding an orphan radioactive source in scrap metal is a success and not a reason to criminalise the operator in the absence of any other failure/offence.

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