Building on a successful joint workshop in 2016, the Middlebury Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) and the African Center for Science and International Security (AFRICSIS) continued their cooperation this year by hosting another capacity building workshop titled “Nuclear Security Policy and Practice on the African Continent” in Accra, Ghana earlier this month. AFRICSIS is an independent, science-based non-profit organization established by Middlebury Institute alumnus Hubert Foy MAIPS ’10.
Designed to meet a growing demand for nuclear security training and capacity building on the African continent, the agenda for this follow-up workshop was developed to benefit a wide range of practitioners. It targeted professionals who currently work in the fields of nuclear and radioactive security, or whose professional activities have an impact on fostering and strengthening nuclear security in the region.
The workshop brought together thirty participants from twelve countries, including inspectors and officials from nuclear regulatory authorities, foreign ministries, law enforcements agencies, medical and cancer treatment facilities, and universities. Burundi, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, South Africa, and Togo were all represented at the workshop. A number of representatives from regional and international organizations in Africa also attended, including personnel from the African Union, African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE), Interpol, and United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC). Workshop presentations featured experts from CNS, Nigeria, and South Africa, as well as international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Group of Experts established to support United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540.
The workshop program featured several components including presentations from participants on possible threats of terrorism in their home countries involving radiological and nuclear materials and measures taken to address those threats. Subject matter experts from CNS and other organizations presented on various topics and participants engaged in short exercises relating to the physical protection of nuclear facilities and nuclear security culture. Workshop organizers also convened a meeting of select experts on the last day of the workshop to produce recommendations and identify future activities for improving nuclear security in Africa.
AFRICSIS also organized a tour of the cancer treatment facility at Korle Bu Hospital in Accra. Cancer in Ghana, and Africa more generally, is a growing problem, yet few patients receive need radiotherapy treatment due to a shortage of radiotherapy machines or alternative treatment options. Those that do often are treated with less advanced Cobalt-60 teletherapy machines, which both provide inferior treatment to patients and pose a terrorism risk if their radioactive sources are stolen. In line with a recommendation made in an earlier CNS report, Korle Bu Hospital recently acquired a new, more advanced treatment machine—a linear accelerator—which can provide improved cancer care without the terrorism risk.
The workshop received wide coverage by Ghana’s national media outlets, including local newspaper and television news reports and a BBC World Service Accra program featuring Foy and CNS staff members Elena Sokova and Miles Pomper. The workshop was sponsored by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.