Profile - Santaclausians on the Move
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Dr. Isaac Acquah
Quaque House, 1956-1960
Year Group: 1960
Growing Up at Adisadel College
While a student at Adisadel College (his mates
from Form I to V included Wing Comm. (Rtd) W. Oppoku, Bruce Konuah, James (Fifi)
Mercer, Dr. Owusu Ansah, Walker Arthur, Harunah, Ebow Roberts, Dr. Togobo, Youku
Dennis and others), Dr. Acquah learned from the late 1950s with awe from
books, documentary films, newspapers and especially from the science masters,
about the devastating effect of the atomic bomb that was dropped on the Japanese
cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6, 1945 and August 9, 1945
Dr. Acquah was also constantly reminded about atomic bomb or atomic energy
from the news media. During the period in Ghana’s history, a considerable
portion of news on radio was directly from the British Broadcasting Corporation
(BBC). Common news then was about the massive demonstrations that were ongoing
all over the world against the atomic tests conducted by Russia, the United
States of America (USA), Great Britain and France (Who tested their bomb on the
Sahara desert). From the media, Dr. Acquah also learned about the Atoms
for Peace proposal that was put forward by President Eisenhower of the
Dr. Acquah’s study of Dalton’s atomic theory prompted deeper thought about
atomic energy. Specifically, Dr. Acquah could not comprehend how atoms (correct
term should be nuclei which are even several times smaller than atoms), could be
the source of such extremely enormous energy.
Nuclear Energy Studies in Moscow State University
Dr. Acquah did not hesitate to accept in 1963 the opportunity to pursue his
studies in Nuclear Physics at the Moscow State University up to M.Sc.
During the course of Dr. Acquah’s studies in Moscow, the Soviet Union was
assisting the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) with the construction of a
nuclear research facility at Kwabenya. However, the nuclear research reactor,
which would perhaps have been the first in Africa, and scheduled to be
commissioned in June 1966, was abandoned when Dr. Nkrumah was overthrown, and
the employees of the GAEC were redeployed.
Dr. Acquah commenced work at the GAEC, Kwabenya in the mid 1970’s, when the
facility was reactivated under the chairmanship of the world-renowned Prof. F.
A. K. Allotey. There were then three other Santaclaucians at Kwabenya. They were
J.P. Brown from a much earlier generation of Santaclausians, one Yawson and J.
M. Addo who was the Senior Prefect in 1959 or so. Mr. Brown did his
post-graduate studies in Nuclear Chemistry also in Moscow.
Exciting Research Studies at Josef Stefan Institute,
A couple of years after working at GAEC, Dr. Acquah had the opportunity to
pursue further studies with a research reactor at Josef Stefan Institute in
Slovenia, under Prof. Mitja Najzer. Prof. Mitja Najzer had a close relationship
with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Specifically, Prof. Mitja
Najzer was affiliated with the International Development Program to reduce the
level of large errors associated with neutron monitoring to an acceptable level.
According to Dr. Acquah, neutron monitoring is very important in estimating
radiation damage which affects the fracture toughness of reactor pressure
vessels of Light Water Reactors (LWR), upon which the safety and reliability
operation of LWR’s squarely depend. Dr. Acquah further states that the fracture
toughness is a crucial design parameter that influences the operating lifetime
of LWR’s. The consequence of large errors in neutron monitoring leads to overly
conservative operational restrictions of LWR’s with considerable economic
penalties. That was why the first LWR’s had relatively short operational
That said, Dr. Acquah’s interest in this aspect of nuclear energy prompted
his doctorate thesis on how to identify all possible sources of errors and
reduce their effects in the measurements.
Dr. Acquah further states that he had inner satisfaction participating in the
aforementioned international programs which were performed in several nuclear
institutes. The improved results in neutron monitoring have led to a better
estimation of the fracture toughness of pressure vessels of LWR’s. Hence the
operational lifetime of several earlier LWR’s has been extended by about 20
years, and the new ones are now built with lifetime of up to 50-60 years.
Back to the GAEC, Kwabenya
Dr. Acquah returned to the GAEC in 1981 to head the Neutron Activation
Analysis Laboratory there, with the responsibility of analyzing elements in some
samples using neutrons from a modest source of Americium-Germanium Neutron
Source (GAEC currently uses a small research reactor with much higher
While at GAEC, Dr. Acquah developed Nuclear Track Detector Laboratory. The
lab played a very useful role in uranium exploration as well as determining the
intensities of radon gas, which is ubiquitous. Radon is one of the daughters in
the decay-chain of uranium. Since it is a gas, it seeps out from the rocks and
soil into atmosphere, -- the largest contributor in any background radiation. In
fact some estate developers in Ghana presently seek help from the GAEC to map
out the level of intensities of radon before they begin their construction.
As a matter of interest, let us learn a bit about radon. For example, in the
US, France and the UK, where there are a lot nuclear power plants and
industries, the total radiation from natural sources accounts for about 84%
of the background radiation. From the 84%, radon gas alone accounts for over
50%. It is also worth noting that the remaining 16% of the background
radiation is man-made, out of which sources from hospitals alone account for
about 15%. Hence, the share of the radiation that general public receive in
the US or the UK or France from nuclear industries, is less than 0.1%.
(Please read more about this from my website:
Dr. Acquah was privileged to have met and worked with J. M. Addo (a
Santaclausian) at GAEC. J. M. Addo was head prefect in 1957. He was also
a very good soccer player during their Adisco days.
Life at the IAEA
Dr. Acquah started working as a Safeguards Inspector at the IAEA from
January, 1985 until his retirement at the end of May, 2000. During Dr. Acquah’s
early days at IAEA, he received in-service training in several nuclear
institutions and facilities around the world. Dr. Acquah became an instructor
and coordinator of several training courses at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna
and at several nuclear facilities outside Austria during the latter half of his
tenure at IAEA.
Safeguards Inspectors have to be updated with newer and better approaches and
developments of up-to-date sophisticated instruments used for verification at
various nuclear facilities (from small research reactors to huge and complex
nuclear power plants). Dr. Acquah’s knowledge of nuclear energy was greatly
enriched by his inspection activities and interactions with the operators of the
various nuclear facilities.
Currently, Dr. Acquah works as a consultant on a number of IAEA projects.
The Importance of Energy in Economic Growth
Dr. Acquah stressed on the important role energy plays in the economic growth
of Ghana and other African Nations when he was with the GAEC in mid-1980s
(before he joined IAEA). In those days Dr. Acquah was engaged in a couple of
energy-related subjects at the national level by contributing to the Daily
Graphic newspaper. Specifically, Dr. Acquah emphasized the importance of
sustaining and accelerating Ghana’s economic growth with viable sources of
Since the year 2000, Dr. Acquah has participated and/or attended several
energy related meetings whenever he visits Ghana. These meetings have furnished
him the opportunity to associate with top officials at the Energy Commission and
the Ministry of Energy. Dr. Acquah has liaised with three prominent Energy
Ministers in recent years: Mr. Ken Dapaah, Dr. Paa Kwesi Ndoum, and the current
Minister, Mr. Kweku Addah, who he met when the honorable Minister led a Ghanaian
delegation to a special meeting on nuclear power programme in Vienna this year
Dr. Acquah has written several articles this year (2007) in the Daily Graphic
stressing on the merits of nuclear energy. Over the recent years, Dr. Acquah has
also been interviewed on TV, as well as on radio about nuclear energy. In
addition, Dr. Acquah has held seminars, mainly at Kwabenya, to the staff of the
GAEC, and a couple at the Physics Department of the Cape Coast University. The
well-noted one was the one-day workshop on the merits of nuclear energy
organized by the Ministry of Energy and attended by all the stakeholders of
energy such as the Energy Commission, the VRA, the ECG, the EPA, etc. The
opening and closing sections of the workshop were chaired by Hon. Mr. Ken Dapaah,
who was then the Minster of Energy.
Dr. Acquah’s Website
Dr. Acquah’s website was launched this summer and is currently in working
progress. The website is set out in two distinct sections:
The first part is on the seriousness of Ghana’s energy crisis and how much
the country has been left behind in the energy sector in comparison to Malaysia
and South Korea, which were at par with Ghana in the 1960s. According to Dr.
Acquah, as a way out from our chronic energy crisis, nuclear has to play the
leading role in any energy-mix. Regrettably, nuclear is shrouded in myths and
fuelled by misconception and misinformation. Dr. Acquah states that his aim is
to allay people’s apprehension and make them a little bit “nuclear literate” so
as to be better informed on issues pertaining to nuclear in this era of
sustainable energy resources to foster economic growth.
The second part on Dr. Acquah’s website is about his hobby, specifically, his
quest for knowledge about the Ghanaian culture and history. Dr. Acquah’s hope is
that the website will ultimately serve as a forum for exchanging ideas, so that
all Ghanaians can learn more and fully appreciate our past.
According to Dr. Acquah, there are so many interesting questions which need
- Why did our first President change the name “Gold Coast” to Ghana?
- Dr. Kwame Nkrumah named “Ghana National College” in Cape Coast as early as
1948 (nine years before our independence). Why?
- Are Akan’s from Ancient Ghana?
- Were there any connections between the Akan’s and the Jews?
These questions and many more continue to fuel Dr. Acquah’s interest and
research into Ghana’s history.
Dr. Acquah is also very interested in meeting and communicating with members
of his year group (1960) and other Old Boys. He currently lives in Vienna, Austria with his beautiful Theresa of
32 years. They have three wonderful children.
Dr. Isaac Acquah and Family - (L-R): Bel, Theresa,
Hannah, Dr. Acquah & Kobby
If you are interested in getting in touch with Dr. Acquah, please
Contact us or email the