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Kuwait free from radioactive waste


Kuwait: Samples of soil, air and water taken from various parts of Kuwait, particularly Al-Metla'e area, tested negative for uranium radioactive substances, said director of the Health Ministry's department on radiation prevention.

The daily readings of particle detectors showed no indication of radioactive pollution or harmful substances in the areas allocated for residential or agricultural purposes, Fadhel Ali Ghloum said in statements to KUNA.

"These radiation detectors, which operate around the clock at dozens of observatories and the 12 early warning stations across the country, produced no data of abnormal radiation levels," he affirmed, noting that his department is working with other competent state departments to ensure the safety of the public.

Ghloum said the laboratories of the department on radiation prevention analyze the air, soil and water samples, taken by these devices, regularly on daily and weekly bases to verify that they are free from any pollutants.

Last year, the labs of the department tested a total of 92 air samples, 2, 282 potable water samples, 70 well water samples, 754 foodstuff samples and 267 environmental samples and all tests came negative for radiation, he affirmed.

The Ministry of Health tasked the company that operates the early warning stations to upgrade these station in keeping with the world's latest standards and technological advances otherwise the Ministry will replace these stations with new ones, he disclosed.

The Ministry set out a nine-point plan for upgrading the protection against radioactivity in collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

These include modernizing the infrastructure, policies and legislations relating to nuclear security at a time which Kuwait and other neighboring countries seek to build nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes.

The plan also envisages building a new premises for the department on radiation prevention which has 110 staffers, 90 percent of who are Kuwaitis, Ghloum pointed out.

On the Ministry's potassium iodide stock, he said, "We have 60 million tablets which can cover the needs of the total population of the country for two weeks at a rate of one tablet for each citizen or resident a day."

"This substance is used for emergency purposes relating to blockade of radioiodine uptake - a common form of radiation poisoning due to environmental contamination. Potassium iodide may be used as a treatment for thyroid storm - a life-threatening complication of hyperthyroidism," Ghloum explained.

The Ministry ensured an annual increase in the potassium iodide stock by four percent, he said, noting that the expiry date of this stock lasts until 2022.

"The Ministry has laid down an emergency plan for the distribution of potassium iodide tablets among all residents within one day in case of any radiation poisoning in collaboration with all relevant authorities, including the General Department of Civil Defense (GDCD).

"The higher emergency commission, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, and the expediency team - made up of 16 government bodies under the umbrella of the GDCD, are tasked with rapid intervention to address any nuclear or radiation incidents," he went on.

On cooperation with other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states in this regard, Ghloum said these countries agreed to launch a regional center for crisis management early warning to respond to, and share information and offer help in case of, any radiation eventuality.

He noted that his department is working with regional and international agencies, including the IAEA, in the areas of training the personnel of radiation detection stations and comparing the results of the lab tests.

Ghloum added that the labs of his department are divided into two parts; one for protecting environment from radiation risks and another for assessing and analyzing the radiation levels.

He refuted allegations about the existence of depleted uranium-contaminated vehicles in Kuwait, saying that the country got rid of 200 tanks and military vehicles for the same cause several years ago.

"The department on radiation prevention maintains close cooperation with Kuwait General Administration of Customs and both sides inked a MoU on barring entry of any radioactive materials into the country.

"As part of this cooperation, the department fixed radiation detectors at the northern Al-Abdali border crossing after reports in mid-February that a radioactive material went missing in Iraq late last year," he went on.

Ghloum reassured the expectant female workers about the safety of the fingerprint attendance devices, saying these devices have no health hazards.

He added that the inspectors of the Ministry conducted hundreds of surprise inspection visits to the government, non-government hospitals, medical centers and clinics countrywide in 2015 and inspected sites of oil exploration and water wells.

The Ministry issued license for public and private hospitals to acquire 231 imported X-ray devices and 117 radioactive substances for medical purposes in addition to 452 licenses for individuals and 210 renewed licenses last year, he added.

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