x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Radioactive camera goes missing from Mussafah

A camera containing radioactive material - used in welding operations - has gone missing, but an official says that as long as the yellow casing is kept on the device, it is safe.

ABU DHABI // A camera containing a radioactive element was reported missing from the Musaffah area last week but people should not be alarmed, says the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR).

A search is under way to find the equipment, which has been missing since last Tuesday.

The device, which contains the radioisotope iridium 192, is in a distinctive yellow casing that should be kept on at all costs, said Ayhan Evrensel, a spokesman for the regulator.

"If nobody messes with the casing nothing wrong will happen," said Mr Evrensel, adding police and the FANR were alerted to the situation as soon as the company responsible for the equipment realised it was missing.

People may risk serious injury if the casing is removed, he said, although there was no evidence to suggest this had happened.

"There is no reason for us to believe that the casing has been removed," Mr Evrensel said.

"It is the machine that is missing. We are just warning that nobody touches it."

If the casing were removed, released radiation could make a person sick. The level of sickness would depend on the amount of time the person spent near the device, and how near they were to it.

There are many possible effects of radiation sickness, Mr Evrensel said.

"When we are exposed to radiation like in this source, the iridium 192, over a long period of time, then the basic symptoms will be nausea, diarrhoea, anorexia and dizziness."

As a result, regulators have prepared themselves for such an incident, Mr Evrensel said.

According to the British Journal of Applied Physics, iridium 192 has a half life of 74 days - the amount of time needed for the radioactivity of the material to decay by 50 per cent.

The small camera, which checks the density of metal, is a very common tool in the welding industry and was properly licensed for use, Mr Evrensel said.

"The company [the identity of which has not been made public] has a licence to use that kind of equipment from us," he said. "It is what we call a regulated material.

"In simple terms, when you weld pipeline you can [use the camera to] check if the welding has been done properly."

The tool is comparable to an X-ray machine but it can see through much thicker material such as metal, Mr Evrensel said.

zalhassani@thenational.ae