Caribbean moves to strengthen management of radioactive sources

The Caribbean is moving to improve the regulatory framework for the management of radioactive sources used in medicine, industry, agriculture and for other beneficial purposes.

Through support from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the region has designed a ‘cradle-to-grave’ project, which proposes the establishment of safe, adequate and sustainable systems to effectively manage radioactive sources throughout their lifetime.

‘Cradle-to-grave’ refers to the control of radioactive sources from distribution to installation, use, disuse, through to disposal.

The project dubbed: ‘Strengthening Cradle to Grave Control of Radioactive Sources in the Caribbean Region’, involves collaboration with the International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences (ICENS) of the University of the West Indies (UWI); the Ministry of Energy, Science, and Technology; and the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Division of Latin America and the Caribbean.

If approved by the IAEA, the regional project would begin this year with a four-year lifetime and would focus on countries within the Caribbean that are new to the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme or have basic needs to establish cradle-to-grave control of radioactive sources.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology, Hillary Alexander, said the initiative will contribute directly to strengthening the regulatory capabilities and infrastructure in participating countries.

She was addressing the first coordination meeting for the project, held at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston on Monday.

“Regulatory bodies will be engaged in the project to improve the national infrastructure for the safe use of sources and specifically, to ensure proper regulatory oversight of the management of disused, sealed sources including the control of radioactive waste management facilities,” she pointed out.

She said it is essential that there is proper control of these sources as there have been incidents of “non-regulated maritime trade accidentally involving radioactive sources and contaminated materials within the region.”

In the meantime, Director General of the IAEA, Ambassador Yukiya Amano, said the project will achieve “important results”.

He gave the assurance that the IAEA will continue to work closely with the region “to meet your needs and to advance not only this project, but the technical cooperation programme throughout the region.”

The regional project is also intended to foster regional and international co-operation that will provide technical and human resources beyond the life of the project to ensure its sustained success.

The cradle-to-grave approach includes implementing national policies and strategies, adequate legal and regulatory framework, as well as resources and infrastructure, to ensure safe and secure management of radioactive sources.

Globally, radioactive sources are used for medical diagnostics and therapy, analysing industrial processes, sterilising food and medical products, among other purposes. The unsafe use of radioactive sources can have harmful effects on people and the environment.

The IAEA has been helping countries to develop effective, safe and secure control systems for their radioactive sources.

The regional initiative is intended to build on the experience and successes of the ‘Strengthening Cradle-to-Grave Control of Radioactive Sources in the Mediterranean Region’ project, which has been instrumental in the development of safety assessment methodologies and tools to track, control and facilitate the disposal of radioactive sources.

The coordination meeting brought together representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.

Jamaica Observer