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Watchdog Group Advises Nigeria on Nuclear Safety

  • Nico Colombant

The head of the United Nations atomic watchdog agency is advising Nigeria on safe usage of nuclear technology amid concerns Africa's most populous country may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

The Egyptian diplomat who heads the Vienna-based International Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, said his discussion with Nigeria's leaders Tuesday centered on scientific and environmental use of nuclear technology.

"I had a good meeting with the president today and I'll continue to have meetings with various ministers to see how we can intensify our cooperation, how we can use nuclear technology for eradicating tse tse, better water management, so it was a wide ranging discussion," he said.

The agency also donated a gamma camera to help cancer patients. The chief medical director of the National Hospital in Abuja, Olusegun Ajuwon, welcomed the news but said more work needs to be done to make sure the camera is used properly.

"They've donated diagnostic equipment which will be the first of its kind in this part of the world," said Dr. Ajuwon. "It's a machine that uses or emits energy, this atomic energy, which has to be regulated. But when they came to inspect the room we found that we need to adjust the room to accommodate the machine."

Concerning military usage, one foreign ministry official asked Mr. El Baradei why some countries are allowed to have nuclear weapons while others are not.

The diplomat responded saying Nigeria should respect its signature of all non-proliferation and test-ban treaties, and that it should join in with other countries, such as South Africa and Egypt, in trying to convince world powers to dismantle their nuclear arsenals.

Last year, Nigeria caused an international uproar when, during visits by North Korean and Pakistani officials, it expressed an interest in acquiring nuclear weapons technology. The government later retracted its statement.

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