An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) project has been launched to help the small island nations of the Caribbean handle radioactive material safely and securely.
The Regulatory Infrastructure Development Project (RIDP) kicked off with a four-day workshop in Vienna, with some participants joining online. It aims to establish or enhance national regulatory infrastructure for radiation safety and for the security of radioactive material. Government officials from fourteen countries in the region, all at different stages in the development of their nuclear regulatory infrastructure, had the opportunity to hold bilateral sessions with IAEA experts to assess their needs.
“We are taking the use of nuclear technology to the next level, and it is important for us to enhance our regulatory infrastructure as we move forward,” said Maxine Russell, Director General of the Hazardous Substances Regulatory Authority of Jamaica. As one of the countries with the most developed regulatory infrastructure in the region, Jamaica is supporting its neighbors under what is known as South-South cooperation. “With the knowledge gained, we aim to continue sharing best practices with other experts in the region.”
Participants included experts from Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and as well as Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Suriname, which are not IAEA Member States.
The individualized approach of the project allows for flexibility both at the planning and the implementation phase, with IAEA experts adapting to address national priorities that could evolve along the way. “RIDP has been designed to tackle and fix any shortcomings countries may have identified in their regulatory infrastructure,” said Lydie Evrard, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security. “This mechanism adopts a flexible and agile open-ended approach.”
Nuclear safety and security go hand in hand as the IAEA works to promote a framework to protect people, society and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. In simple terms to distinguish the two, safety is about protecting you from accidental exposure to radiation whereas security is about protecting the radioactive source from being used for malicious intent. “Nuclear safety and security are two sides of the same coin,” Evrard said. “RIDP is tailor-made to address both angles so that they complement each other in an integrated manner.”
For countries starting out, they will receive support in the establishment of a national policy, a national inventory of radiation sources, the development of regulations and guides, supported by related training. Assistance to countries which are further ahead in their infrastructure development will focus on the enhancement of these areas and further strengthen their organization. The project also complements on-going work under the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation program enhancing regulatory infrastructure for radiation safety in the region.
The workshop concluded with a draft workplan that will guide the participant countries in their next steps.
The governments of Canada, France, Spain and the United States have provided financial support to the overall project. The RIDP focusing on the Caribbean region is financed by the United States, which delivered its support through the Office of Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund (ISN/NDF) – U.S. Department of State.