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Belize Enacts Radiation and Security Act, Providing a Legal Framework for the Safe, Secure and Peaceful Use of Nuclear Technology


The Radiation Safety and Security Act was adopted by members of the House of Representatives of Belize in October 2020. (Photo: BBN)

Belize’s House of Representatives has enacted the Radiation Safety and Security Act, establishing a new national regulatory body, the Radiation Safety and Security Office, within the Department of the Environment of the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction, to enhance the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technology.

The adoption of this law by the House of Representatives of Belize on 7 October 2020 represents an important milestone for the country of 400,000 inhabitants and establishes a clear path toward the effective establishment of a national regulatory framework for the use of nuclear technology.

The Act empowers the newly-established Radiation Safety and Security Office to establish regulatory control over activities, practices and facilities involving ionizing radiation. This regulatory control will help to guarantee that activities and practices are authorized and inspected; that the safeguards obligations of the country are implemented; that healthcare professionals deliver accurate and appropriate doses to patients; that radiation protection programmes are established to protect workers; that facilities are operated safely and securely, and that well-functioning and properly calibrated equipment are in use, among other precautions and safety provisions.  

The adoption of the Radiation and Safety Act marks the culmination of steady, enduring support and assistance provided to Belizean officials by the IAEA.

“The passing of the Radiation Safety and Security Act is another landmark success story of the fruitful technical cooperation between Belize and the IAEA,” said Wilfred Erlington, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belize. “This relationship is now increasingly crucial as we welcome further engagement to ensure the safe, secure and peaceful utilization of nuclear applications for development.”

Capacity building

Over the last decade, Belizean officials from the Department of Environment and from the Attorney General’s Office participated in a series of IAEA technical cooperation (TC) projects which not only helped to raise awareness of and to promote sensitivity for the potential benefits of nuclear science and technology, but which provided capacity building and training in the areas of legal drafting, regulatory infrastructure and in the control of radiation sources.

The IAEA provided assistance as part of its legislative assistance programme, implemented primarily through the technical cooperation (TC) programme[1]. This involved expert bilateral legislative drafting assistance in 2020—delivered virtually due to the pandemic—to support the finalization of the Radiation Safety and Security Bill.

In October 2017 and 2018, participants from the Attorney General’s Office of Belize participated in the IAEA Nuclear Law Institute (NLI), an intensive two-week training event on drafting comprehensive national nuclear legislation conducted annually by the IAEA in Austria. In April 2017, Belize hosted an IAEA sub-regional workshop on developing and strengthening the legal framework for nuclear applications that included the representatives of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.[2] This followed the participation of Belize in the 2014 meeting on nuclear law for IAEA Member States in the Caribbean region, held in Jamaica.

“I am pleased to see the adoption of the new Act following the provision of legislative assistance. The Act now provides a good basis for the country to implement the relevant international legal instruments on safety, security, safeguards and civil liability for nuclear damage,” said Wolfram Tonhauser, Head of the IAEA Nuclear and Treaty Law Section. “We therefore stand ready to support the country in the consideration of adhering and committing to the international legal instruments.”

Regulatory Framework

Belize has benefitted from additional TC assistance to establish its regulatory framework. In January 2012, IAEA experts trained a group of technical and legal personnel from CARICOM countries, including Belize, and provided guidance in the drafting of radiation safety regulations.

Through a regional TC project[3], Belizean counterparts participated in the first School for Drafting Regulations on Radiation Safety for IAEA-CARICOM Member States, organized from 16 to 27 January 2017 in Vienna, Austria.

Finally, Belize was also represented at a regional training course[4], the first of its kind, organized to provide guidance to Caribbean countries on the establishment of national regulatory infrastructures for radiation source control.

The IAEA will continue its support to partners in Belize as they draft the implementing regulations and establish a concrete path to strengthen the new Radiation Safety and Security Office.

[1] RLA0067, ‘Enhancing National Legal Frameworks’.

[2] RLA0055, ‘Establishing National Legal Frameworks in Member States’.

[3] RLA9082, ‘Establishing and Strengthening Sustainable National Regulatory Infrastructures for the Control of Radiation Sources’

[4] RLA9082 ‘Establishing and Strengthening Sustainable National Regulatory Infrastructures for the Control of Radiation Sources’

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