Channel NewsAsia

Nuclear-related offences criminalised

The amendment to the Radiation Protection Act will allow for the imposition of the death penalty for nuclear-related offences that cause fatalities, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

SINGAPORE: A Bill to amend the Radiation Protection Act was passed in Parliament on Monday (July 7). With the amendments, the Act will criminalise nuclear-related offences, such as threatening to use nuclear material to harm the public, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan. He added that the Government is most concerned about acts of sabotage against nuclear facilities with the intention to cause harm or death.

Dr Balakrishnan said the Act allows for the imposition of the death penalty if the action causes fatalities.

"Our view is that these punishments send an appropriately strong signal that the government regards these as very grave offences. The provisions are tightly-scoped and I want to assure the House that it does not extend the death penalty beyond Singapore's existing legislation," he said. 

There are no nuclear facilities in Singapore at the moment, so this aspect of the Act prepares for future scenarios. It can also be used in a situation where an incident happens in the region but the resulting radiation affects Singapore.

The amendments move Singapore towards its accession to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, and its 2005 Amendments. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the Republic would do so during his visit in March to the 3rd Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague. Amendments to the Radiation Protection Act are necessary for accession to the Convention. 

The bill will make all nuclear offences extraditable crimes under Singapore's Extradition Act.  It will also give the National Environment Agency's Director-General of Environmental Protection the power to request for information from a transaction involving nuclear materials. 

Some non-convention-related amendments have also been made to the Act, to include the screening and decontamination of suspected "contaminated" inbound passengers by authorised personnel. 

The Act now formally requires Government agencies which possess and use radioactive material and irradiating equipment, such as x-ray devices, to obtain licences. Government agencies previously were required to obtain licences administratively, but there was no legislative framework requiring them to do so.

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia