Kingdom Has No Plans To Develop N-Technology

RIYADH, 26 February 2004 — A senior Saudi scientist said yesterday that the Kingdom has no plans to develop nuclear energy or to become a nuclear power. It is, however, working to expand its radiation monitoring capabilities.

Dr. Khaled Al-Eissa, deputy director of the Institute of Atomic Energy Research (IAER) at King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), said that fossil fuel will remain the cornerstone of the country’s energy policy for the time being.

He said that peace-loving Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, had never sought to possess nuclear weapons. The Kingdom, he said, had been mainly focusing on applied nuclear research for industrial and health purposes. The majority of research projects on which KACST scientists are currently working are funded by local industries including Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) and Saudi Aramco.

“The Kingdom has imposed stringent restrictions on industries, hospitals and nuclear medicine centers in terms of using nuclear technology. Some of them have also been committing minor violations of radiation safety norms,” said Dr. Al-Eissa.

Asked about the regulatory measures, he said that the organizations, which violate safety norms, are served notices and later penalized. Personnel working in such sensitive areas have been asked to wear protective clothing and their radiation doses are measured at regular intervals.

He pointed out that some major hospitals such as the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, the Armed Forces Hospital and the Saudi-German Hospital, in addition to many industries, have been using nuclear technology or radio isotopes for diagnosis and therapy.

In reply to a question about the country’s preparedness to deal with radioactive mishaps, Dr. Al-Eissa said: “The Kingdom has finalized a plan to expand the existing network of radiation monitoring stations from 15 to 30 within two years. There is a proposal to integrate the radiation monitoring stations of all GCC members.”

He stressed that the move to set up new monitoring stations would strengthen the radioactive protection program in Saudi Arabia, a member state of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The Kingdom, he said, has in place an emergency plan to safeguard its people and environment against any mishaps involving high radiation doses. He explained that the central technical team attached to KACST would swing into action in the event of an accident.

Dr. Al-Eissa said that even small doses of radiation could cause cancer and damage blood cells besides causing serious environmental damages. He went on to explain that there are no chances of radioactive mishaps in the Kingdom which has no nuclear reactors or nuclear installations and facilities.

Concerning technical cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the IAEA states in the field of nuclear research for peaceful purposes, he said that the IAEA membership enables it to receive technical support from the organization.

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