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Applying Innovative Planning Tools for National Nuclear Radiation Safety in Latin America and the Caribbean

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An IAEA team member during an Occupational Radiation Protection Appraisal (ORPAS) in Chile. (Photo: R.C. Suarez/IAEA)

The IAEA hosted a regional workshop for representatives from its Latin America and Caribbean Member States, from 4 to 8 February, pioneering a novel approach which enabled the design of 22 national projects simultaneously, in the area of enhancing radiation protection and nuclear safety.

At the five-day workshop, which took place at the IAEA’s Vienna headquarters, 33 participants from 19 countries implemented the IAEA’s new Strategic Planning Tool for the first time and consulted closely with IAEA experts to design technical cooperation projects that will deliver made-to-measure solutions.

The Strategic Planning Tool aims to facilitate the design of effective technical cooperation projects by enabling the identification of persisting gaps in radiation protection and by supporting the involvement of relevant national stakeholders. It guides country teams through a step-by-step process to prioritize and address the technical, safety-related gaps identified in the IAEA’s Radiation Safety Information Management System (RASIMS) and Emergency Preparedness Information Management System (EPRIMS), based on four criteria: severity, relevance, urgency and difficulty.

By using the tool to develop a list of priority areas, TC counterparts in the region can then design corresponding national technical cooperation projects for each of the identified priorities, to be addressed by national safety projects, according to Member State needs. These national projects will be submitted to the IAEA Board of Governors in November 2019, for approval by Member States and for implementation in the 2020-2022 technical cooperation cycle.

“This new approach effectively creates a pipeline with IAEA safety standards at one end and effectively-designed national projects at the other, with opportunities to adjust and reformulate objectives throughout the design process,” said IAEA Programme Management Officer Nicola Schloegl, who helped to facilitate the interactive workshop.

The Strategic Planning Tool was developed in cooperation with IAEA and regional regulatory and safety experts and was tested with the support of an Ecuadorian country team, during a pilot phase in September 2018. While the Tool was used for the first time in the design of new projects during the February meeting, its effectiveness has since been recognized and—alongside the Logical Framework Approach—will become a standard element in the development of safety-related projects in the region.

This new approach effectively creates a pipeline with IAEA safety standards at one end and effectively-designed national projects at the other, with opportunities to adjust and reformulate objectives throughout the design process
Nicola Schloegl, IAEA Programme Management Officer

Regional alignment

From their initial production to their decommissioning and final disposal, radioactive sources must be subjected to controls throughout their lifecycle. The organizations and operators that use radioactive sources are responsible for protecting workers, patients, the public and the environment from the adverse effects of ionizing radiation. However, as some common challenges in the use of nuclear and radioactive applications are shared by Member States in the region, IAEA interventions and support are also provided on a regional basis. In keeping with this approach, three regional projects are being designed to support the 22 national projects in development

Like their national analogues, the regional projects have been designed on the basis of a strategy tool, namely the Regional Strategic Profile of the Regional Cooperation Agreement for the Promotion of Nuclear Science and Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean (ARCAL). The first regional project will harmonize the efforts and strengthen the networking of national regulatory bodies in the Latin America and Caribbean region[1], while another has been designed to strengthen cooperation with technical support organizations of radioactive techniques[2], such as hospitals and dosimetry laboratories. The third regional project will assist English- and French-speaking countries in the Caribbean to establish the enabling environment for the safe use of nuclear science and applications.

Although implemented in different national environments, the 22 country projects will be linked together by the three regional projects, which will reduce the duplication of efforts, promote cooperation between national regulatory bodies and harmonize standards and instrumentation.

“The main benefit of regional projects is to work on common issues and understand the interaction between them,” said Leslie Vironneau of the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission. “For this next biennium, our national project will be mainly focused on adaptation of regulations applicable to the area of radiation protection, the strengthening of capacities of technical support services as well as radiation protection at end-users´ facilities and in the medical practice, such as paediatric interventionism. Another important point will be the strengthening of waste management and national environmental monitoring,” she continued.

By making the 22 national projects both consistent and compatible with the three regional ones, the achievements of the former projects—including newly-trained personnel and newly-acquired infrastructure—can be channelled to help realize the broader objective of improved nuclear safety in the region, all the while fostering networking and harmonization of procedures and protocols among the participating IAEA Member States.

The workshop was attended by participants from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

[1] RLA9084, ‘Strengthening the Regulatory and Radiation Safety Infrastructure for Latin America and Caribbean’

[2] RLA9085, ‘Strengthening Regional Capabilities for End-Users and Technical Support Organizations to Improve the Radiation Metrology Systems and Radiation Protection for the Protection of Workers and Patients in Line with IAEA Requirements’

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