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IAEA Helps Caribbean Countries Bolster Radiation Safety and Nuclear Security


Radioactive sources are used worldwide in medicine, industry and research. Once they fall out of use, the risk of them being unprotected or abandoned increases. The one pictured was used at a training exercise in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. (Photo: D. Calma / IAEA)

Many of the small island nations of the Caribbean are new to the use of radioactive sources. To make sure they can reap the benefits of nuclear technologies in medicine, industry, agriculture and research, they need to do it safely and securely. This is what an IAEA project, launched for the region last month, is setting out to help them do.

The Regulatory Infrastructure Development Project (RIDP), focusing on the Caribbean, kicked off on 11 April 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 neighbours 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.

A unique approach

This individualized approach 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 trainings. 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 programme 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. RIDP is already underway in other regions – following the Caribbean, the next regional workshop focused on Africa concluded on 22 April. 

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.

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