CARIBBEAN 360 – A Bill seeking to create a legal framework for the regulation of activities, practices, apparatuses and facilities involving ionizing radiation and nuclear technology was passed in the House of Representatives yesterday.
The Nuclear Safety and Radiation Act, was piloted by Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton who said the objective was to protect people and the environment from exposure to ionizing radiation to the maximum extent that is reasonably practicable, taking into account social and economic factors, and recognizing the need for the use of ionizing radiation for beneficial purposes.
The legislation’s other objectives include: protecting radioactive sources from misuse that may result in harm to people or the environment; promoting radiation protection principles and an effective nuclear safety culture; providing compensation for damage, loss and injuries caused by ionizing radiation; allowing the beneficial and peaceful uses of nuclear technology; and facilitating Jamaica’s compliance with international obligations arising under the conventions.
In addition, Hylton said, the Bill makes provision for the establishment of a national regulatory body, a Hazardous Substances Regulatory Authority, as well as a board of directors which will be responsible for the recommendation of policy and general administration of the affairs of the Authority.
The legislation also prohibits the building, importing, exporting, and operating of a research reactor; the acquisition or development of nuclear explosives; the developing, producing, otherwise acquiring, stockpiling or retaining of radioactive material or nuclear material for the purpose of producing a weapon; and the disposal of the said materials except in accordance with the authorization granted.
In his contribution, Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson highlighted that the passage of the Bill will be of great importance to the health sector.
He explained that the government is investing US$14.5 million in setting up two cancer treatment centres, which will be outfitted with linear accelerator (LINAC) machines, the most modern technology in radiotherapy treatment.
“We will not be able to bring in the equipment without this piece of legislation,” Ferguson said.
For his part, Opposition spokesman on science Dr Andrew Wheatley said the Bill is a “vital measure which brings Jamaica into compliance with international standards and best practices adopted in the safe handling of hazardous material”.
The Bill is to be sent to the Senate for debate and approval.