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An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said the operator of a research reactor in Jamaica showed continuous commitment to safety after its successful conversion to use low enriched uranium (LEU) instead of high enriched uranium (HEU) as fuel. The experts also made recommendations for further safety-related improvements at the reactor, which is the only such facility in the Caribbean region.

The Integrated Safety Assessment for Research Reactors (INSARR) team concluded a five-day mission on 23 June to assess the safety of the JM-1 (SLOWPOKE II type) reactor, which was originally commissioned in 1984. The 20 kW reactor is operated by the International Centre for Environment and Nuclear Sciences (ICENS) at the Mona campus, University of West Indies, in the capital Kingston, primarily for neutron activation analysis, education and training.

In 2015, the reactor’s core was converted from HEU to LEU fuel in a joint effort by the Governments of Jamaica, the United States and Canada, with assistance from the IAEA. The core conversion was part of global efforts, supported by the IAEA, to eliminate the proliferation risks associated with HEU, while maintaining important scientific research. The reactor started operating again the same year. Currently, its instrumentation and control system is being upgraded with support from the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Programme to further enhance operational safety.

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VIENNA, Austria (CMC) — Jamaica is the only Caribbean country included in a five-year research project announced yesterday by the Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to refine methods to apply nuclear-derived techniques to test for accuracy in food labels.

It said that the participating countries in the research project, which started with a kick-off meeting last week, are China, Costa Rica, Denmark, India, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Malaysia, Morocco, Myanmar, New Zealand, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand and Uruguay.


The IAEA said that the outcome of the project, carried out in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, will assist countries in combating fraud in high-value food products, such as premium honey, coffee, and speciality rice varieties.

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The Caribbean’s only research reactor will be converted to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel later this year, decreasing non-proliferation risks while doubling the reactor’s utilization capacity. The conversion of the reactor from highly enriched uranium (HEU) to LEU fuel is part of a joint effort between the governments of Jamaica and the United States, with support from the IAEA. The spent fuel will be returned to the United States.

“The additional capacity will allow us to expand research work related to food safety, food security, water and air quality,” said Charles Grant, Director General of the International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences (ICENS) at the University of West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. “With the additional capacity we will be able to accommodate the research needs of other countries” from the Caribbean, he added.

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The US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has removed the last 1kg of US-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Jamaica's Slowpoke research reactor and returned the material to the United States.

The 20kW, Canadian-designed Slowpoke reactor is located at the International Center for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences (ICENS) at the University of West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. It is used for neutron activation analysis research, which has applications in environmental, agricultural and health-related studies.

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n the announcement, IAEA said the conversion of the so-called SLOWPOKE reactor was part of a joint effort between Jamaica and the United States Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration with support from the UN atomic watchdog.

“Our assistance with the conversion and enhancement of the reactor’s utilizations capacity is an important step in our development work at the Caribbean,” said Luis Carlos Longoria Gandara, Director of the IAEA’s Division for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Jamaica, but also the wider region, can benefit greatly from the peaceful use of nuclear technologies.”

The research reactor, the only one in the Caribbean, has operated at the University of West Indies for over 30 years, according to IAEA.

“Jamaican scientists plan to expand research work related to food safety, food security, water and air quality,” it said.

The conversion of this reactor is part of global efforts, supported by the IAEA, to minimize the risks associated with the civilian use of highly enriched uranium, while maintaining scientific research capabilities and the operating performance of research reactor facilities, the agency said.

Highly enriched uranium can be a nuclear proliferation and security concern because it can eventually be used for producing material used for nuclear weapons.

“Cooperating with Jamaica and Canada in completing this HEU removal is an outstanding example of how regional cooperation can support global efforts to minimize the civilian use of HEU, while preserving important research capabilities,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington. “The removal of the HEU fuel is a significant achievement and could not have been accomplished without the strong leadership and hard work from our counterparts in Jamaica and the technical support of Canada.”

Through an arrangement reached in 1984 between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Canada, Jamaica, and the United States, the U.S. provided HEU material to Canada to fabricate fuel for the Canadian designed SLOWPOKE reactor at the International Center for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences (ICENS) at the University of West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. The 32 year old research reactor is used for Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA), a method for determining which chemical elements comprise a material by bombarding the material with neutrons. This research has informed environmental, agricultural and health related studies as well as mineral exploration, and contributed to increased food safety, food security and water and air quality in Jamaica.

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The 19th coordination meeting of the ARCAL Technical Coordination Board (OCTA) took place in IAEA Headquarters in Vienna from 14 to 18 May 2018. The OCTA meets each year to assess Member State proposals for the regional programme of the forthcoming IAEA technical cooperation programme cycle.

National Coordinators of ARCAL, representing Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela, and a representative from Spain, worked together to identify regional priorities and to select project proposals for the 2020–2021 TC cycle. Participants focused on identifying common regional challenges that could be addressed in a cohesive, coordinated and effective manner, and discussed the benefits of establishing IAEA collaborative centres to create synergies and harmonize national nuclear capacities.

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