x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Missing radioactive device is found intact

Officials have safely recovered an industrial device containing radioactive material that went missing in Musaffah last month.

ABU DHABI //Officials have safely recovered an industrial device containing radioactive material that went missing last month.

But the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) says the incident has revealed vulnerabilities in security with radioactive materials.

A passer-by found the camera-like device on Sunday night in Al Rahba, 30 kilometres north-east of Abu Dhabi, and notified police.

FANR staff retrieved the device and found it had not been damaged, said Ayhan Evrensel, a spokesman for the regulator.

"It was recovered untouched, so that showed there was no malicious intent and we did not have any reason to believe that there was one," Mr Evrensel said.

An industrial radiography company in Musaffah last month reported the equipment was missing.

Similar to an X-ray machine, the device is used in welding to check the density of metal. It contains the radioisotope iridium 192.

Officials warned that anyone tampering with the device's yellow casing could be exposed to radiation, risking sickness or injury. There were no traces of radioactive contamination when the device was found.

"This case thankfully had a happy end, without anyone being hurt," Dr John Loy, the director of the FANR's radiation safety department, told the state news agency Wam.

"But it showed vulnerabilities on the part of our licensees in securing radioactive sources and we will look into that."

Formed in 2009, the FANR licenses more than 380 bodies that use radioactive sources, Mr Evrensel said.

The authority last month held two workshops reviewing safety and security regulations.

"I think almost all of them are doing this in good faith and trying to fulfil their commitments because of the law," Mr Evrensel said.

"Unfortunately … every now and then [radioactive] sources in the country fall outside regulated control. It's a worldwide phenomenon."

He said he did not know how or where the passer-by found the device.

The FANR voluntarily reported the item's loss to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, and planned to report its recovery, Mr Evrensel said.

He would not release the name of the company that lost the device, saying the company had been "extremely cooperative" and reported the problem swiftly.

"They came up to talk to the police, then to us, gave detailed reports of how it might have gotten lost, where it might have been and so on," he said. "They have shown full responsibility."

vnereim@thenational.ae