As Guyana continues down a rapid developmental path, the demands on the Environmental Protection Agency are becoming greater. From the oil and gas sector to a massive boom in construction and infrastructure development, the Agency recognises the critical need to strengthen its human capital to better achieve its mandate of effective management of the environment.
Currently, the EPA is implementing the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) Regional Project: Strengthening Cradle-to-Grave Control of Radioactive Sources. The project aims to protect people and the environment from potential adverse effects of ionizing radiation, while enabling and fostering the safe and secure use of radioactive sources to promote sustainable socio-economic development.
Guyana is a member of IAEA
Guyana became a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2015, and has been benefitting from several regional initiatives. As part of the project’s 2019 implementation, the EPA recently coordinated a four-day workshop on Search and Recovery of Radioactive Orphan Sources. Participants were drawn from the Environmental Protection Agency, Civil Defence Commission, Guyana Police Force, Guyana Revenue Authority, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, University of Guyana, the Ministry of Communities, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Puran Brothers Waste Disposal Service, Cevons Waste Management, and Sand dip Waste Disposal Services. The workshop was facilitated by four (4) international experts: Mr. J.C Benitez-Navarro (IAEA), Mr. Bob Irwin (Canada), Mr Brad McRee (USA) and Mr. Ron McCrea Cushnie (Jamaica).
EPA’s Executive Director, Dr. Vincent Adams, in his opening address to the participants, alluded to Guyana’s rapidly expanding construction, oil and gas, as well as mining sectors that create the critical need to develop mechanisms to ensure that all radioactive sources are regulated. Strengthening border security systems must be put in place to ensure all sources entering through various ports of entry are accounted for.
What is meant by the term orphan source?
Throughout the world, radioactive sources are used in medicine, industry, agriculture, research and teaching. They are also used in some military applications. Radioactive materials are firmly confined or aggregated inside an appropriate capsule, or protective boxes referred to as sealed sources.
Orphan source refers to a sealed radiation source out of regulatory control. Sealed sources can become orphan in a number of ways, such as measuring and controlling devices containing radioactive materials that were improperly disposed of as scrap metal and taken to metal recyclers. Given our vibrant scrap metal export industry, it is key that persons be made aware of the possible risks to health and the environment from poorly managed sources.
Additionally, gauges used in industrial processes and in road construction can be disposed by the side of the road or in a river. Sealed radioactive sources used in oil and gas exploration that are no longer wanted but contain radioactive materials that exceed the limits for disposal at commercial low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities.
The role of the EPA
The EPA, under the Environmental Protection Act and Regulations, currently regulates the import, transport, storage and use of sealed radiation sources. To date, the Agency has authorised the use of sealed sources in the gold mining, health, oil and gas exploration as well as beverage production. In 2017, the IAEA assisted Guyana in commencing work in developing a National Source Inventory. The Agency is moving towards adherence to Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources, to improve access and effective management of Radioactive Sources.