Seven incidents of radioactive sources in Vietnam

VietNamNet Bridge – The most recently radioactive incident in Bac Kan province was not the first in Vietnam. This shows 'loopholes' in management of radioactive objects in the country.

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The missing radioactive device in Vung Tau.

The first incident occurred on 31/10/2002 at Hyundai - Vinashin Shipyard in Khanh Hoa province. A group of three employees of Alpha Co., Ltd. was taking industrial radioactive photos by the device using gamma radiation source of Ir-192, 42.45 Ci when the radioactive source encountered trouble.

On 23/12/2003, Viet Trung Cement JSC in Thanh Hai commune, Thanh Liem district, Ha Nam province lost the Cs-137 radioactive source, which was used to measure the automatic discharge of clinker. To date there is no information about this radioactive source.

Three years later, on 17/05/2006, while repairing the 6th floor of the building of the Rare Radioactive Technology Institute, where the radioisotope source was kept, workers moved the radioisotope source to the next room. On 29/5/2006, the institute detected that the radioactive isotope source was lost but it was then found out.

In July 2006, Song Da Cement JSC disassembled equipment of its cement production line for repair. On August 8 the company detected that the container of radioactive sources in the device was lost. This device has not been found.

In September 2014, APAVE Asia- Pacific Ltd. based in Tan Binh district, HCM City lost its radioactive source, which was then recovered.

Recently, Ponima 3 Company in Tan Thanh district, Ba Ria - Vung Tau province announced to lose a device containing radioactive Co-60. The search is still ongoing.

On January 5, 2016 a container of radioactive material went missing from Bac Kan Cement Company in northern Vietnam.

The container was found to be missing when the company was asked to move the radioactive material from its warehouse to a safer place. The company does not know when the container went missing.

The provincial police, department of science and technology and procuracy are co-operating to investigate the incident and interrogate the concerned people.

The missing radioactive material is Cs-137.

Vuong Huu Tuan, head of the Viet Nam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety (VARANS), said Cs-137 is a low-level, radioactive material that does not pose any risk to human life unless there is long-term exposure. VARANS has provided devices to the province to search for the missing material. Following the incident, the cement company has been asked to suspend operations.

According to VARANS data, the agency has issued licences to more than 6,000 radioactive sources that are currently active around the country. Another 1,867 sources have been given licences as well, but they are not in use.

There have been six cases of radioactive materials missing nationwide since 2003. Only three of them have been found.

Loophole in management

Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Pham Cong Tac said these incidents show that the management of radioactive sources in Vietnam is problematic.

Along with economic development, radioactive sources are being used more and more in the fields of agriculture, industry and health care, so the management is increasingly difficult. Vietnam is lacking specialized warehouses for radioactive sources.

Mr. Vuong Huu Tan, Director of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Agency, said Vietnam has plenty of used radioactive sources and they are mainly stored by users. Under Vietnam rules, they will be stored by users for three years, and they they must be transferred to specialized warehouses. However, so far Vietnam has had no specialized warehouse.

Officials of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Agency said this year the collection of used radioactive sources will be handled completely.

"The Ministry of Science and Technology has petitioned the High Command of Chemistry to keep these radioactive sources. We do not want to store them in the city or residential area," Tan said.

Regarding the use of radioactive surveillance equipment, Tan said it was only applied to large radioactive sources with a high danger level. "Vietnam has more than 4,000 radioactive sources, of which 600 will be stuck with monitoring devices," Tan said.

Monitoring devices will be attached to the radioactive sources from April 1, 2016.


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Linh Nhat

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