Thailand gives radioactive waste storage assurance
BANGKOK - Thailand gave an assurance yesterday that it would ensure radioactive waste and equipment was properly stored after nine people who had been exposed to dumped radioactive material were hospitalised last week
Manoon Aramrat, spokesman for the state-run Office of Atomic Energy for Peace (OAEP) told Reuters two of those hospitalised were in critical condition.
"We are worried and concerned about the patients who were exposed to high doses of radiation last week. I learnt from doctors at the hospital that two of them are in critical condition. The rest are in stable condition," he said.
Manoon said radioactivity was no longer a threat in Thailand.
"We would like to reassure the public and the international community that Thailand is now safe and free from radioactive exposure.
"All radioactive equipment and waste are being kept in proper storage and are under the thorough control of the OAEP," he said.
The nine patients had unknowingly handled radioactive parts from an abandoned radiotherapy machine dumped on an unused plot of land near Bangkok. Two more machines were also found at the site.
They were exposed to Cobalt 60, an isotope artificially produced to be used as a source of gamma rays or high energy radiation. It is used in cancer treatment machines, in food irradiation and in glass colouring, OAEP officials said.
Science, Technology and Environment Minister Arthit Ourairat told reporters he would welcome a visit from a team of experts from the United Nations who had offered to come to Thailand to help it streamline control of radioactive waste disposal and treat the nine patients.
Thai authorities earlier this week asked police to investigate and file charges against a distributor of imported radiotherapy machines, Kamol Sukosol Electric Co, for improper disposal of the machines on land it owned.
Police were investigating the case and formal charges had not been laid, officials said.
Kamol Sukosol has said that it is consulting its lawyers on the case.
The OAEP said the latest incident occurred due to the careless and irresponsible disposal of radioactive machines.
Thailand currently has 126 cancer treatment radiotherapy machines being used in 20 hospitals nationwide. All these were safely and properly stored, Manoon said.
"There is no harm from these machines unless people try to disassemble them. The public should not panic as all the equipment are being kept under control," he added.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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