Bill to promote safe, secure use of radiation passed in National Assembly

In a bid to regulate and promote the safe and peaceful use of ionising radiation, the Radiation Safety and Security Amendment Bill 2022 was on Thursday passed in the National Assembly with unanimous support.

The bill was first read in April 2022 and referred to a Special Select Committee for further review.

Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony, presented the bill for its second reading, noting that it provides the legal framework to promote safe, secure and peaceful use of ionising radiation, and to protect persons and the environment against the harmful effects of radioactive waste.

Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony

The bill recognises the benefits of ionising radiation in various fields, such as health, energy, agriculture, and industry, but also acknowledges the importance of regulating this usage to protect individuals, society, and the environment.

“To ensure that the objectives of this bill are achieved, an independent regulatory authority, called the Radiation Safety and Security Board, will be established. The board collaborated with relevant government agencies to ensure that activities and practices involving the uses of ionising radiation and nuclear energy are used in Guyana for only peaceful purposes,” the health minister explained.

According to the legislation, the board must consist of representatives from various public and private sector agencies, such as the Guyana Revenue Authority, the Ministry of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Ministry of Labour. This diverse makeup highlights the array of issues the legislation attempts to address, and the widespread impact its implementation will have on society.

With an ongoing explosion of the country’s diagnostic capabilities, the health minister stressed that it is also imperative that the country formulates a framework for regulation of ionising radiation.

“This is the first time in our country that we have now put together legislation to govern the use of ionising radiation. So, this is a landmark piece of legislation that will help to keep the people of Guyana safe, and that we will use ionising radiation for the benefit of people,” Dr. Anthony said.

Further, Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, said the bill is a timely addition to the country’s legislative landscape.

“Ionising radiation is used in a number of sectors. But, with the utilisation comes the question of safety, and I’m very happy to see that this bill looks at all the aspects of safety that we need to address as we include these types of radiation in our daily lives. It must be managed and treated in such a way that minimal exposure, if any, and the safety of people and the environment, will always be paramount,” she said.

Meanwhile, Director-General of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Vishwa Mahadeo, highlighted the crucial role that ionising radiation plays in the country’s advancing health sector, such as in facilitating the implementation of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans.

“While it is a necessary harm for the good of the patient, there need to be safeguards and protective measures, not only for the beneficiaries but also for the professionals who would use the equipment and do the procedures. This regulatory control will help to guarantee that these activities and practices are authorised and inspected. It will help to ensure that the safeguards and obligations of the country are implemented and that the healthcare professionals deliver accurate and appropriate doses to patients, that radiation protection programmes are established to protect workers, and that facilities are operated safely and securely,” he said.

The bill was drafted by the Attorney General’s Chambers, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Atomic Energy Agency.