Protection Against Radiation Ensured

RIYADH, 25 March 2003 — The Kingdom has put in place an emergency plan to protect its people and environment against any nuclear accident or doses of high radiation from industrial disasters or bombardment.

“We have set up 14 radiation monitoring stations and early warning systems in the country, which have so far not detected any abnormal levels of radiation because of the war on Iraq,” said Dr. Ahmad Ali Basfar, director of the Institute of Atomic Energy Research at King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) here on Sunday.

“The emergency plan will be immediately activated in the event of any radioactive mishaps,” Basfar said.

He said that the central technical team linked to KACST will swing into action in the event of any radioactive accidents.

“We are relying on our monitoring stations, which transmit accurate information regularly to the KACST-based central workstation, and we also have portable monitoring devices which can analyze soil, air and water samples during an emergency to ascertain the levels of radiation,” he explained. After double-checking the samples to ascertain levels of radiation, the necessary steps are taken or people evacuated from the affected zone,” said Basfar, who also supervises several atomic research programs.

He said even small doses of radiation could cause cancer and damage blood cells, besides causing substantial environmental damage. Six radiation monitoring stations and early warning systems were currently functioning exclusively in the northeastern part of the Kingdom, close to the Iraqi border. These stations, he said, have also not monitored any abnormal level of radiation so far.

Basfar advised Saudis and residents to follow the instructions of government organizations like KACST in case of any radioactive emergencies during the US/UK-led war on Iraq. These instructions will be immediately relayed to people via radio, television and newspapers, he said. Gas masks are also available, which can help minimize the effects of radiation, he said.

The scientist said that radiation can be caused by accidents during the application of nuclear technology, industrial disasters and, rarely, nuclear war. Radioactive emergencies can also arise from the mishandling of radioactive sources in industry and hospitals, he said.

KACST, he said, has imposed strict laws on all users of radioactive materials in Saudi Arabia, which is a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

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