Tue | May 26, 2020

Jamaica enters new programme with atomic energy agency

Published:Thursday | August 9, 2018 | 12:00 AMMcPherse Thompson


Jamaica signed a new agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, which will see the application of atomic energy in agriculture and industry as a means of stimulating economic growth.

This marks their second programme and Jamaica now has a national portfolio of nine ongoing projects supported by a budget of €2.77 million.

The country programme adheres to the goals of the 2030 national development plan, which seeks to guide Jamaica’s development path towards the achievement of developed country status, said Dr Wayne Henry, Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica, at the signing ceremony held at PIOJ’s offices in New Kingston on Thursday.

IAEA deputy director general Dazhu Yang signed on behalf of the atomic energy agency.

Henry said the new country programme, which covers the period 2018 to 2023, will focus on water and environmental management, health and nutrition, food and agriculture, nuclear and radiation safety and security, as well as energy and industry.

It also signals a new era in the project in that the soon-to-be completed and re-established nuclear medicine facility at the University of the West Indies, UWI Mona, will open the door to significantly enhanced treatment of cancer and other non-communicable diseases, Henry said.

The increasingly wide reach of nuclear technology is demonstrated in its application to a range of other development issues through projects seeking to determine the availability of adequate water resources in the Kingston hydrological basin, he added.

It is also used to optimise irrigation water management to improve crop output and water quality control in the Rio Cobre basin by utilising water and fertiliser in an efficient manner, and increase productivity of onions and sweet potato by training personnel in isotopic techniques.

Agriculture has been targeted for the production of economically important crops to produce higher yields and better quality with resistance to disease, adverse climatic conditions and shorter production cycles.

“This will help Jamaica to survive in the global marketplace and maintain its competitive advantage in certain food areas,” said the PIOJ head.

The scope of the assistance has also been extended to nutrition in children with the aim of promoting healthy growth by assessing the role of parenting and early life influences on body composition and energy expenditure.

The Government of Jamaica joined the IAEA in 1965 and for many years after only benefited from a limited programme with the organisation, said Henry.

However, with the installation of the Slowpoke nuclear reactor at the UWI Jamaica became a participant in the agency’s technical co-operation programme, and its engagement became more extensive as local knowledge of the various nuclear applications available grew.

Under the guidance of the IAEA, Jamaica has graduated from the use of the technology at the International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences — ICENC — only to much more extensive applications, evidenced in a wide range of programmes and projects.

Henry said growth in the use of the science is also demonstrated in the research programme in health and other critical areas being undertaken by students in the ICENS medical physics programme.

Jamaica has emerged as the first in the Caribbean to have accomplished milestones such as the establishment of the medical physics department at the UWI, which trains nuclear physicists from Jamaica and elsewhere in the region.

The PIOJ said the IAEA recently approved another nine project concepts to be funded under the 2020/21 cycle. They will focus on food and insect irradiation, coastal and marine pollution, obesity in young children, ground and surface water management, improved resistance to leaf rust disease in coffee, development and use of nuclear cardiac imaging in the diagnosis and management of cardiac patients in non-communicable diseases, the use of nuclear medicine for diagnosis and treatment of surgical patients, development of a sustainable cancer care system in Jamaica, and the use of radiosurgery technology at the university hospital for treatment of cancer patients and to provide a comprehensive training programme in radiation medicine.