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Country prepared for any radiological emergency.

Byline: Ghazanfar Ali Khan

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia, which will send a delegation to the meeting of the Arab Atomic Energy Agency (AAEA) in Tunis on Monday, says it is prepared to respond to radiological emergencies with a national emergency plan.

"The plan gets activated in case of any radiological disaster," said Abdulrahman Mohammed Alarfaj, a prominent energy expert working at the Atomic Energy Research Institute of the Riyadh-based King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology (KACST), here yesterday.

Alarfaj, who spoke at length about the activities of the AAEA with special reference to the agenda of the four-day meeting, said the Kingdom was well equipped to control and manage any radiological emergency.

The plan addresses first and foremost commercial radiological utilizations, like nuclear medicine and radiological institutions in the Kingdom.

"If the disaster goes out of control, then the Kingdom's national plan gets activated," said the KACST energy expert, who will be leaving today to attend the AAEA meeting.

He pointed out that the national body to respond to radiological disasters has the representation of more than 23 relevant organizations and government agencies, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Electricity. The plan works with the Civil Defense as the focal point under the Ministry of Interior, he added. The KACST energy expert said that the Kingdom has 13 radiotherapy centers and 50 nuclear medicine centers, which are monitored by KACST.

Asked about the possibility of industrial disasters with radioactive leaks, he said that most of the major industries were using industrial gauges, which regulate and control such problems.

Moreover, the Kingdom has a broad range of specialties needed in a radiological emergency, including health and safety specialists, laboratory technicians, protective equipment, and decontamination experts.

"That is why the task force set up under the national plan is fully prepared to respond quickly to incidents of radiological contamination, wherever they may occur," said Alarfaj.

Spelling out the agenda of the AAEA meeting, he said that the executive board of this Arab atomic body would convene its session to discuss the whole spectrum of issues, primarily a pan-Arab program for peaceful nuclear use. The meeting, he said, would work out details to host the next biennial Arab conference on nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Delegates will be attending the meeting from all member states, namely Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Kuwait, Lebanon and Yemen.

The meeting, according to the KASCT expert, will draw out several proposals and programs following the adoption of an Arab strategy for peaceful nuclear development by an Arab summit in Doha in March this year.

He said that the meeting, to be co-chaired by Yemen and Jordan, would also focus on training manpower to apply new nuclear techniques in the fields of medicine, radio therapy and in many other related areas.

The AAEA session will also approve the agenda and review the past activities that included several training programs hosted by member states over the last six months.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Jul 26, 2009
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