The handling of radioactive material being left to the discretion of individual companies is set to end, as Government moves to set standards for the use and disposal of isotopes.
Minister of the Environment Trevor Prescod explained that while the use of radiation here is limited to health, communication and exploratory technologies, fears of contamination due to its carcinogenic nature mean that Government can no longer be satisfied with a system of self-regulation.
Prescod warned that while there has never been a serious radiation incident in Barbados, there are enough examples from neighbouring countries that should cause the authorities to rethink how things are done.
He said: “Despite using radiation in multiple sectors and for different purposes, Barbados is immature in the comprehensive regulation of ionizing radiation.
“You can say that businesses have self-regulated over the years with minimum Government intervention in this area.
“Fortunately, we have not had any serious incidents similar to the incident in Trinidad and Tobago at the Brian Lara Cancer Treatment Center or the loss controls through thefts in Mexico in 2013.”
Prescod, who was delivering a speech to welcome the International Atomic Energy Agency Advisory (IAEA) at the Radisson Aquatica Resort.
He further noted that given the fact that radiation can also be weaponized, countries have a duty to demonstrate their regulatory control systems as part of the due diligence in the trade of radioactive material.
He pointed out that part of the function of the advisory mission was to look over Government’s draft plan to regulate nuclear substances.
Prescod said: “The world has changed, and we must also change with it. We must successfully develop measures which are consistent with best practices to sustain our way of life and to protect the environment and human health.
“This is why Government agreed to this advisory mission to learn from the experts in this area and allow us to build a regulatory system in line with our society and consistent with our culture, our principles, our values and our national objectives.”
The Environment Minister revealed that the Mottley administration was currently developing an emergency response to potential radiological, biological and chemical hazards.
He added: “Radioactive sources and devices have many beneficial applications in medicine, industry, agriculture and manufacturing.
“But these useful sources have the potential to create havoc in societies and the environment if they are used for purposes other than peaceful ones.
“Locally issues have arisen with the storage and end of life disposal of radioactive sources and as a result of mounting concerns the Government joined the IAEA in November 2015.”
But Prescod insisted that the coming regulations would not be so stringent as to interfere with the critical uses of radiation, especially within the health sector.
He said: “There shall be no more regulation than necessary. We intend to encourage the use of radioactive sources to continue to treat cancer, explore for oil and gas and investigate pollution sources.
“These shall be done with an agreed upon regulatory framework and it shall not hinder trade or limit treatment of persons.” (CM)