x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Nuclear agency sets deadline for companies to register equipment

More than half of the companies in the UAE that operate equipment using radioactive material have until September 23 to register.

DUBAI// More than half of the companies in the UAE that operate equipment using radioactive material have yet to be licensed, the Government nuclear authority has said. The Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) has set a deadline of September 23 for all establishments to register instruments using regulated material such as radioactive substances or ionizing radiation. This includes hundreds of hospitals, clinics and dental offices that use X-ray machines for diagnosis and treatment. It also covers some hotels that operate security scanners.

"FANR deals with a complex range of customers who use regulated material," said Dr John Loy, director of radiation safety department at the agency. "We know there are many more out there and we urge them to register immediately. We want to make sure that people are protected from radioactive accidents." The authority says it has this far received 200 applications for licencing, but that nearly 1,000 establishments are known to use the affected equipment. In addition, FANR officials are saying that companies should apply for the licences before September 1 to ensure that all the paperwork can be completed by the deadline. The programme follows a federal nuclear law introduced last year that gave companies 12 months to comply.

The requirements affect users of radiology machines such as CT scanners, which use a series of X-rays to provide cross-sectional images of a patient's body. Such devices are commonly used to make medical diagnoses, and patient safety makes it important that all safety regulations are followed, according to officials. "We have to use them for investigations, and sometimes private practitioners even overuse scanners," said Dr Zaid Abdulaziz al Mazam, a cancer specialist at Dubai's Rashid Hospital. "There are hazards of using them, but it all depends on the doctor, his knowledge and experience." Industrial consumers of radioactive material, which include radiographers, oil well loggers and radioactive gauge users, are also obligated to comply with the licencing programme. FANR said that a license was mandatory even if a company's machines are licensed by other international or local agencies.

"Radioactive accidents usually happen when radioactive material is lost from its source. We want to prevent this," said Dr Loy. "As a regulator we want to ensure that no accidents happen in the country." The authority will conduct inspections after the deadline passes to uncover any violators. It has warned that unlicenced companies run the risk of being forced to cease operating the relevant equipment or face fines, and has expressed particular concern about the numerous smaller facilities operating radiology machines.

"The small clinics are the hardest to reach," said Dr Loy. "The issue of medical exposure is complex and controversial. More and more radiation doses are being given to patients due to equipment like CT scanners. It achieves the goal if there is effective diagnosis, but medics have to be careful. This is why there is a very strong obligation as medical professionals to ensure you are registered."

Both Government and private entities have to be licensed by FANR. pmenon@thenational.ae