PREAMBLE: The Nigerian Institute of Physics (NIP) is the Professional Association of physicists practicing in the Academia, Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government as well as those in the Oil and Gas Industries. Physics is the branch of science that deals with the structure of matter and energy and how the fundamental constituents of the universe interact. It studies objects ranging from the very small, using quantum mechanics, to the entire universe using general relatively. As a result, physics has branches which include Astrophysics, Engineering Physics, Medical Physics, Particle Physics, Material Science, Geophysics, Nuclear Physics etc. Nuclear Physics studies the Nuclear Energy also called Atomic energy which is the energy that is released in significant amount in processes that affect the atomic nuclei. It is the application of this physics concept that led to the establishment of Atomic Energy Commissions worldwide and the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) in particular as a body for the development and deployment of Atomic energy for peaceful uses and for the socio-economic development of Nigeria. Invariably therefore, NAEC is principally all about physics.
Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission is in the community of other world’s Atomic Energy Commissions such as that of Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, United States of America and even the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission. At the beginning, the Atomic Energy
Commission started in America on the 1at of August 1946, when America President Harry S.Truman signed the establishment Act to control the development and production of Nuclear weapons and to direct the research and development of peaceful uses of Nuclear energy.
THE NIGERIAN INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS’ VIEWS ON THE NAEC REPEAL AND ENACTMENT BILL, 2022.
- PART 1– ESTABLISHMENT OF NAEC AND ITS GOVERNING BOARD
NIP’S VIEWS: NIP notes Part 1 sub 2 (b) “the Executive Vice Chairman, who shall be the Chief Executive Officer”. NIP agrees with this and is of the view that this will strengthen and enable the Commission’s CEO to perform more optimally.
The NIP is of the view that the other provisions under Parts 1 and 11 of this Bill captures the core essence of the establishment of the Commission and the functions assigned thereto and are in tandem with international standards and reflects local peculiarities of Nigeria as a sovereign nation.
Section 3, lists some Ministers that may be co-opted into the Board of the Commission to include that of Water Resources. The Water Resources Ministry is NOT too relevant to NAE and should be deleted.
- PART 11 (3): FUNCTIONS AND POWERS OF THE COMMISSION
Section 3 (c) to read “Promote, harmonize, streamline and coordinate research and development activies including capacity building infrastructure development in nuclear science, engineering and technology”
Section 3 (d) sub (iv): It should be noted that NNRA, Oil prospecting facilities, research facilities including University laboratories and hospitals share some of these functions..
The Commission by this Bill is empowered to perform and execute its functions as listed in Section 3 and is RESPONSIBLE for those areas mentioned in Section 3 subsection D (1), (2)
(3) (4) and (5). The Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority
(NNRA) was established to be “responsible
for Nuclear safety and radiological protection regulation in Nigeria”. There
appears to be much areas of conflicts
with this statutory
role of the NNRA, especially with
much focus on radioactive materials, which gives the impression that atomic energy is all about safety and security of radioactive materials.
- PART 111 APPOINTMENT OF EXECUTIVE VICE CHAIRMAN, EXECUTIVE COMMISSIONERS, SERETARY AND STAFF OF THE COMMISSION:
Part III Section 2 (a) and (b) states the qualifications for the Executive Vice Chairman. The Bill should expressly indicate the process (es) involved in the appointment of thr Executive Vice Chairman.
The Bill states, inter alia, in Part 111 (6) (a) “be appointed from among the Directors of the Technical Depar9tments of the of the Commission by the President”
NIP’S VIEWS: NIP is of the view that this condition is too restrictive and would invariably be counterproductive, in long run, to the overall growth of the Commission. Therefore this provision should be reviewed by inserting the clause “or a qualified skilled personal of equivalent cadre from outside the Commission by the President”. Bringing in technically qualified hands of equivalent rank from outside of the Commission into the management will no doubt enrich decision making by widening the scope through diversification of technical opinions garnered from allied organizations.
The Bill should spell out the job description of the Executive Commissioners.
Section 9 sub (2) (a) …..the rank of Associate Professor/Professor….. in place of SENIOR LECTURER is recommended.
Section 9 sub (3) . The tenure of the Directors should be upgraded to THREE (3) Years (as against the present Two years) renewable once, to enhance effectiveness.
- PART 1V: FINANCIAL PROVISION
This section deals with establishment of funds into
which the funds of the Commission shall be credited, including the Nuclear
Energy Funds and how it shall be applied (Section 14 and 15). Section 16 (1)
deals with how the funds are disbursed and the committee that will manage it.
NIP’s VIEW: It is the view of the NIP that Section 16 (C) should include a fifth member and here the NIP is suggested i.e. (v) Nigeria Institute of Physics.
The NIP was established primarily to give effect to the provisions of Section 15 ( c), (d ) and (e). The NIP is deeply involved in these activities via the pool of its members who have the expertise in nuclear energy research and radiological management. 15 (e), which specifically deals with “capacity building of man power in nuclear energy activities” should NOT be limited to those at the tertiary institutions alone. The catch them young phrase should be applied here i.e. the capacity building should include those at the Secondary School Level. The activities of the NIP at the grassroot, which includes National Physics Quiz Competition and Physics Workshops for Secondary Schools across the federation is what produces the qualified and highly motivated candidates which move up into the tertiary levels. Therefore, if included in The Committee, the NIP will be invaluable in offering proper technical guide towards efficient and effective disbursement of the funds.
Section 17 of Part IV is on the establishment of a Nuclear Damage Compensation Fund while Section 18 listed the sources of funds for its operation. Specifically, Section 18 (b), (c ) and
(d) mentioned the sources from where the funds can be derived. It is herby suggested that these listed sources should be cross matched with those charges by the Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA) for operators of radioactive materials to avoid taxing same operators twice for similar services.
The immediate question to be asked here is should atomic energy development be all about multiple tax collection, as seen in Section 14 (b) to (f) and now Section 18 (b) to (d), without a definite road map to nuclear power development?
- PART VI- NJUCLEAR SAFETY
The steps taken as enunciated under Section 28 – 30 are
in agreement with what is practiced by other Atomic Energy Commissions in
Africa. However, due to leakages of official secret documents and information
experienced in some sensitive governmental agencies, NIP is of the view that
Oath of Secrecy should be administered to the Operator or personnel responsible
for the protection nuclear materials and facilities.
- PART VII – NUCLEAR SAFETY
This Section 31 to 36 has elaborated the steps to be taken and is applicable worldwide in nuclear facilities, especially as enunciated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Nuclear accidents are rare but do occur. In the history of civil nuclear energy, there have only been two major accidents where a large amount of radioactive materials were emitted at Chernobyl (1986), which resulted in forty six deaths so far, and at Fukushima Daiichi (2011) which resulted in no casualty. .
The mentioned Insurance Policy in Part XI Section 55 (a) and (b), though strictly for nuclear Installations, should be modified to apply to Operators and personnel working in nuclear facilities. Similarly, the Bill should make provision for compensation to individuals or communities who may be affected adversely by activities of nuclear facilities or through an accident.
- PART VIII – EXPLORATION AND EXPLOITATION OF RADIOACTIVE MINERALS
The exploration and exploitation of radioactive mineral requires a well coordinated approach different from the usual mining operations of non radioactive minerals. As a result, NIP is of the opinion that this very sensitive and technical operation must be carried out in a manner that will not expose the environs to adverse effect of radiation. Consequently, the Bill should provide for the creation of a Nuclear Geophysics Department which will be saddled with mining radioactive minerals and also carry out advisory services to the Commission on all aspects that has to do with exploration and exploitation of radioactive minerals in the country.
Section 38 should address the exploration and exploitation scientifically, by developing and updating a national nuclear and radioactive minerals inventory (map), updated every 5 – 10 years.
- PART X – SPENT FUEL AND RADIOACTIVE WASTE
Section 43 (2). Professional Associations such as The
Nigerian Nuclear Society should be considered into the Board of the Nigerian
Nuclear Waste Management Company (NNWMC).
- XIII – MISCELLANEOUS
Part XIII Section 66 says “No employee of the Commission shall be arrested while on duty, if his immediate arrest might result in danger to life or goods, whether in execution of a warrant or otherwise……”. This provision seems not implementable.
The Council of the Nigerian Institute of Physics (NIP) welcomes the move made by the Federal Government through the National Assembly in ensuring that the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission is repositioned to discharge its functions optimally like its peers worldwide. As mentioned, the functions of NAEC and NNRA should be careful examined to remove areas of conflicting and intersections. This NAEC Bill should consider including professional associations such as the NIP in the NAEC Board. NIP is the umbrella association through which most of important technical personnel and the workforce of NAEC belong. If on NAEC Board, the NIP will serve as a binding force foe the ntechnical team thereby further promoting better productivity at the Commission. The Council of NIP is presenting working on a Bill, to be sent to the National Assembly, to make it mandatory for all physics practitioners to be certified by the NIP without which they cannot practice physics and its associated disciplines in the country.
Professor H.O. Aboh, M Inst P FNIP FIMC
President, Nigerian Institute of Physics
FOR AND ONBEHALF OF THE NIGERIAN INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS