IAEA Supports Advances in Regulatory Infrastructure for Radiation Safety in Caribbean

Cooperation between the IAEA and member countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have made the use of radiation technologies in the region safer, by advancing radiation safety regulatory infrastructure in the region. Through its technical cooperation (TC) programme, the IAEA has provided continuous support to CARICOM countries to ensure that the use of nuclear and radiation technologies does not compromise the safety of people and the environment.

There are 12 Caribbean countries who are members of both the IAEA and CARICOM, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Across the Caribbean, the IAEA has supported the establishment of appropriate laws, regulations and regulatory bodies, and promoted the application of to the IAEA’s Safety Standards. With further implementation of the Regional Strategic Framework (RSF) for the Caribbean region, policy-makers, regulators and operators have realized notable improvements and achievements.

Advancing the legal and regulatory framework for radiation safety

Since 2016, IAEA-CARICOM countries have participated in four TC projects, taking advantage of the Agency’s assistance in drafting legislation and regulations to support the control of radiation sources.

Six countries in the region have participated in the IAEA’s annual two-week intensive training course on nuclear law-the IAEA Nuclear Law Institute-which is focuses on drafting nuclear legislation. In January 2017, experts from seven countries in the Caribbean region attended the IAEA School for Drafting Regulations on Radiation Safety and prepared a first draft of their national regulations for the control of radiation sources. Additionally, five IAEA-CARICOM countries drafted their national nuclear law through participation in the IAEA Legislative Assistance Programme.

Jamaica passed the Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Act in August 2015, and following participation in these activities, the country approved regulations in August 2019. Jamaica became the first CARICOM country to establish an independent and fully-operational regulatory body, the Hazardous Substances Regulatory Authority (HSRA), in 2020.

Across the Caribbean, the IAEA has supported the establishment of appropriate laws, regulations and regulatory bodies, and promoted the application of to the IAEA’s Safety Standards. (Photo: Texas A&M University)

In October 2020, Belize enacted its Radiation Safety and Security Act, which established a new national regulatory body, the Radiation Safety and Security Office.

“With the passing of the Radiation Safety and Security Act, Belize is now empowered with a robust legal instrument to ensure the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear applications for development,” remarked Martin Alegria, Chief Environmental Officer at the Department of the Environment of Belize.

Three additional countries-Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas and Barbados-have drafted national laws, and Trinidad and Tobago is currently drafting its proposed national nuclear law.

Operationalization of regulatory bodies

Within the past five years, 11 of the 12 IAEA-CARICOM countries have either established a national regulatory body or designated an interim national regulatory body to ensure the regulatory oversight of nuclear technology. By coordinating the delivery of training and equipment with the IAEA, countries in the Caribbean have empowered their national institutions responsible for the control of radiation sources.

Radiation safety experts are essential for the operation of a national regulatory body. Since 2016, a total of 57 regulators from CARICOM countries have received practical training in radiation safety through various IAEA projects. Training events have included courses that establish and demonstrate best practices in regulatory functions, such as notification, authorization, inspection and enforcement. IAEA-supported capacity building activities further clarified methods for the identification, characterization and control of radiation sources, which are necessary to ensure an accurate, updated national inventory.

National radiation safety infrastructure also relies on the availability of equipment to support essential regulatory functions. To this end, 10 regulatory bodies have received 114 radiation detection devices to detect lost radioactive sources, monitor radiation and ensure the safety of workers, the public and the environment.

“Having this radiation detection equipment allows the Belizean Department of the Environment to collaborate with other frontline agencies, namely the Customs Department, to strengthen Belize’s control on the imports and exports of radioactive materials,” explained Jorge Franco of the Department of the Environment of Belize.

Regulatory bodies are being set up through a Coaching Programme in Regulatory Infrastructure, which offers tailored assistance informed by a Strategic Planning Tool developed with Latin American countries. Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Jamaica and Guyana are leveraging support under the programme to accelerate the development of their regulatory infrastructure. The Coaching Programme will deliver capacity building support to the remaining Member States in the region, and its scope will be expanded to include individual coaching on the safety of disused radioactive sources.

Students use hand-held radiation survey instruments, during the emergency response scenario to gain control of radioactive sources. (Photo: Texas A&M University)

Promoting knowledge sharing among Caribbean regulators

To leverage existing expertise in the region and forge closer ties between regulatory and academic institutions, the IAEA signed an agreement with the University of the West Indies Mona (UWI) in May 2018 to collaborate on the development and delivery of training programmes in radiation safety, among other related topics.

“Education and training are crucial parts of our shared regional goals, and UWI – together with our IAEA colleagues – work to provide these opportunities to the region to ensure the safe use of nuclear technology,” explained Charles Grant, Professor at the UWI International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences (ICENS). “The UWI is a regional university, therefore the materials developed for training courses are available to all 17 UWI member countries, ensuring a uniformed and sustainable regulatory certification process.”

Since 2018, UWI and the IAEA have been developing radiation safety training programmes for specific sectors, the largest being the medical and healthcare industry.

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