Jamaica has officially launched its Hazardous Substances Regulatory Authority (HSRA), becoming the first Member State of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to establish an independent regulatory body to ensure safety and security in the operation of facilities involving ionizing radiation and nuclear technology in the country, including the Caribbean's only nuclear reactor — the 20 kW SLOWPOKE research reactor.
The Authority is responsible for administering the Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Act of 2015, a comprehensive act covering nuclear safety, security and safeguards, as well as civil liability for nuclear damage. The Act provides a basis for Jamaica to implement the relevant international legal instruments adopted under the auspices of the Agency. The Act was developed with support of the IAEA through its legislative assistance programme.
HSRA is also responsible for implementing the Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Regulations of 2019, which were supported and reviewed by the IAEA. Together, HSRA and the legal and regulatory framework will provide assurances for the protection of workers, the public and the environment as the application of nuclear science and technology continues to broaden in areas such as nuclear medicine, radiotherapy and irradiation facilities.
“Having now fully established the framework and regulations, Jamaica and Jamaicans remain safe while we leverage the benefits of the ionizing radiation and nuclear technology,” said Audley Shaw, Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce.
The launch of HSRA constitutes the culmination of a multi-year process, starting with the Authority’s establishment in December 2016, beginning operations in September 2017 and issuing regulations in 2019.
Since its establishment, HSRA has committed itself to enhancing Jamaica’s infrastructure for nuclear safety, security and safeguards, engaging closely with the IAEA’s technical cooperation (TC) programme. Through a series of eight TC projects, the IAEA provided assistance to Jamaica in the area of safety, deploying nine field expert missions and training eleven regulators, including five through the Postgraduate Educational Course in Radiation Protection and the Safety of Radiation Sources. Through its TC programme, the IAEA provided the HSRA with equipment to conduct regulatory functions and to establish a new database for inventory of radiation sources.
Jamaica has helped to lead several TC regional projects dedicated to radiation safety, and the expertise it has developed over the years is now being transferred to other countries in the Caribbean. Jamaica’s experts in the areas of legal drafting and nuclear safety have been deployed to other IAEA-CARICOM Member States.
Work is ongoing with HSRA and the International Centre for Nuclear and Environmental Sciences (ICENS), as part of the IAEA partnership with the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, to establish education and training programmes in radiation safety for the IAEA-CARICOM Member States, based on the experiences accrued in Jamaica.
The IAEA participated in the official launch of the HSRA on 29 October, alongside representatives of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the International Radiation Protection Association (IRPA).
“One of the indispensable elements that should always be there is the presence of a robust, normative and regulatory structure to make sure that everything is done in a way that is beneficial to the public,” said Rafael Mariano Grossi, IAEA Director General, at the HSRA launch ceremony.