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U.N.: Caribbean Is Now A Uranium-Free Zone

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KINGSTON – The United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Friday announced that Jamaica completed the conversion of its research reactor to low enriched uranium this month, decreasing proliferation risks and making the Caribbean region completely free of highly-enriched uranium.

In the announcement, IAEA said the conversion of the so-called SLOWPOKE reactor was part of a joint effort between Jamaica and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration with support from the U.N. 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.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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