Namibians encouraged to
embrace nuclear science technology

Martin Endjala

The Health and Social Services Minister Kalumbi Shangula is encouraging both the private and public sectors to embrace Nuclear Science Technology (NST) as an enabling tool to solve many economic and social problems in the society.

The minister was speaking at the First National Nuclear Science and Technology Conference held today in Windhoek under the theme “Nuclear Science Technology as Catalyst for Development in Namibia.”

The minister indicated that over the past years, the development of nuclear science and technology in Namibia has been underpinned by the Technical Cooperation Programme between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Namibian Government.

This arrangement, he said, has served as a mechanism for transferring the appropriate technology and technical skills to Namibia.

The activities include a wide range of peaceful applications of nuclear technology, including applications in human health, food, agriculture, energy, water resource management, research and development and education & training.

In the field of health, nuclear and radiological imaging are indispensable tools for diagnosis of diseases.

This subsector is well-developed in Namibia, with services being offered in public and private health facilities.

Dr Shangula is adamant that there is room to do more to harness advancements in this field for the benefit of our society.

Namibia has four nuclear medicine units and three radiation therapy centres through which cancer patients in Namibia access vital treatment technologies, services and care.

“I underscore that it is possible to take advantage of the latest treatment capabilities to provide timely access to cancer treatment,” the minister lamented, while adding that the success of nuclear technology as a diagnostic tool is evidenced through the application of Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT–PCR).

This is a nuclear-derived technique for detecting the presence of specific genetic material in any

pathogen, including the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

In the field of agriculture, nuclear technology is applied for the development of high yielding and

drought tolerant crop varieties, for example cowpeas and sorghum. This project which is currently being implemented under the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform, has the potential to be a significant success story, especially in these challenging climatic conditions.

Stable isotopes are deployed to study the dynamics of ground water, including the flow, recharge and discharge and quality of ground water providing useful information for further exploitation of

groundwater resources.

The application of nuclear techniques for testing of food contaminants, facilitates international certification and opens up more markets to Namibian products.

The testing capabilities developed at Namibia Standards Institute (NSI), Central Veterinary Laboratory and the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) Shangula emphasized will allow for continued international market access for fishery and beef products.

There are currently ongoing discussions to identify and deploy flagship projects that can catalyse the nuclear sector in Namibia.A research reactor is a good example of a large-scale, sector-wide project that may appeal and

contribute meaningfully to the education, research, energy, water and health sectors among others.

The health minister equally pointed out the importance of partnerships, especially the role of the private sector to complement the efforts of government, adding that with constraints on fiscal space, public private partnerships can serve as opportunities to harness nuclear resources.

Therefore, investigative studies that demonstrate the economic benefit of the various projects can serve as a key to attract private sector investment.

By Observer