ONDRAF/NIRAS is amongst the first federal government organisations for which Belnet, under the framework agreement with Telenet Business, is providing WAN connectivity between sites. Belnet spoke to Werner Ramaekers, ICT manager at NIRAS, who is closely monitoring the project.
Could you briefly introduce ONDRAF/NIRAS?
ONDRAF/NIRAS is the National Agency for Radioactive Waste and Enriched Fissile Materials and is responsible for radioactive waste management in Belgium. Radioactive waste results from the production of electricity in nuclear power plants, from the decommissioning of nuclear facilities, and from the use of radioactive materials in research, medicine, agriculture and industry. ONDRAF/NIRAS has developed a waste management system consisting of several stages: from waste reduction to long-term management. Our mission is to protect current and future generations by safely managing radioactive waste.
How many sites are involved in the WANNIRAS project?
Some six sites. The registered office of ONDRAF/NIRAS is located in Brussels in the Allianz building. Dessel (province of Antwerp) is where you can find the Belgoprocess site (the subsidiary of ONDRAF/NIRAS that processes and temporarily stores radioactive waste pending its disposal) and the ONDRAF/NIRAS – Site Dessel site, which will operate the surface disposal processes. Dessel is also home to Tabloo, the visitor centre for radioactivity and radioactive waste, which has a permanent exhibition on the activities of ONDRAF/NIRAS and Belgoprocess. In Wallonia, we have an operating site in Fleurus (ONDRAF – Site Fleurus) where a large-scale decommissioning project is underway.
For what reasons did you partner with Belnet?
ONDRAF/NIRAS and Belgoprocess have been interested for some time in switching to Belnet's WAN to bring intercommunication into a single environment. The specific reason for the WANNIRAS project was the relocation of ONDRAF/NIRAS' corporate headquarters from Avenue des Arts to the Allianz building on Boulevard du Roi Albert II in Brussels.
What does the set-up of your network look like now and what advantages does it have for you?
As we look after all WAN connections with Belnet, we know for sure that interconnection between all our sites is assured. Monitoring and continuity of service is guaranteed by Belnet.
It's a great advantage to be able to discuss our WAN connectivity with a single partner.
In addition, Belnet's approach reduces the complexity of what we do, which allows us to focus on our core business.
How did you experience the cooperation with Belnet with regard to technical aspects and communication?
Belnet handled communications to the various contractors to keep everything on track. Before that, we had monthly meetings with Belnet to ensure we could closely monitor everything.
We started with the headquarters of ONDRAF/NIRAS in the Allianz building and the process we followed there was efficient: this was a new site and we fulfilled the predetermined time scale.
For the Dessel site, everything took longer than planned because excavation work had to be carried out there, which of course has an impact and meant that the migration to Belnet WAN has been delayed.
On the technical side, communication is going very well, we have a single technical point of contact. Our personnel know where to address their questions and there are effective follow-up processes.
Are there any particular areas of improvement for you that Belnet can work on?
Belnet works with several operators for its network, which is why transparent communication is important: where is everything going according to plan, where is it not going so well. When the process does not go as planned, it's sometimes difficult to know who is waiting for what to happen. This is where Belnet can be more proactive and provide more regular status updates.
Would you recommend Belnet to other government organisations?
Absolutely. The complexity that comes with government procurement with different partners in different locations, that's where Belnet provides a service that we very much need and would otherwise have to take on all the complexity ourselves.
It's also of interest to us that we can add on other services afterwards. If this is how we can improve government network security by working together in this, it's a win-win for everyone.