While the NRC’s mission is to regulate nuclear materials in the U.S., we do, at times, have an opportunity to help other countries. Recently, I was one of two NRC inspectors who were invited to Ghana to assist the International Atomic Energy Agency in training 25 students from 13 developing African countries. The focus for myself and Willie Lee, of the office of Federal and State Materials and Environmental Management, was to train students in the technology, use and regulation of industrial and medical radioactive materials.
The course was hosted by the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, at the University of Ghana graduate school. The students were selected based upon responses to a lengthy application process and their respective country’s need for trained inspectors. During the four-week program, the students were provided room and board plus a small stipend at the university dormitories, and they gained knowledge and experience in the technology and regulation essential to ensuring the safety of the sources in their home countries.
As part of the visit, we were given a tour of the University of Ghana Research Reactor, laboratories and graduate school, and even invited to present additional lectures to the graduate level nuclear engineering classes on the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. The students were very interested in how to apply the lessons from those accidents to their own country’s regulations.
What the students lacked in experience they made up for with enthusiasm. We found the African people to be eager to learn, bursting with excitement and overflowing with kindness.
I now have a much greater appreciation for the African people, for what they lacked in material possessions they made up for with a desire to achieve and maintain safety for their countries.