Prayut says no risk from furnace dust

Prayut says no risk from furnace dust

Plant now 'secured', locals urged to relax

The tube of caesium-137. (Photo: Government Public Relations Department)
The tube of caesium-137. (Photo: Government Public Relations Department)

Caretaker Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha gave reassurances that local residents would be safe after hazardous caesium-137 contamination was detected at a metal factory in Prachin Buri's Kabin Buri district on Monday.

According to the Office of Atoms for Peace (OAP), contaminated furnace dust was found at a local steel plant. However there was no trace of contamination found within a 5-kilometre radius of the factory.

Many bags of furnace dust were found to be unaffected and were moved off the premises. The plant's 70 employees were also cleared and the site has been put under the control of authorities.

PM's Office Minister Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, who is also the acting Industry Minister, said on Tuesday that Gen Prayut had instructed related agencies to inspect various industries in each area to ensure the safety of the public.

"There is no need to worry as the [caretaker] government is trying to resolve and contain the situation with the utmost effort," said Mr Thanakorn.

Reports of the caesium-137 contamination caused many local villagers to grow anxious. The area within a 10km radius of the plant includes a crowded community, a large school, a plantation and a river.

There was no contamination reported in the soil, water or air on Tuesday. However this has not eased locals' fears that they may still be inhaling the dangerous furnace dust.

The news has also undermined fruit sales in the area, with many orders reportedly cancelled.

The Pollution Control Department issued a summary of its examination of radiation levels in six spots around the steel plant, saying no contamination was found in any of the checked areas.

Meanwhile, Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Minister Anek Laothamatas called a meeting with deans of the faculties of medicine from more than 20 universities on Tuesday in a bid to devise a suitable plan to handle the matter.

Although authorities confirmed the contamination had been safely contained at the foundry in Prachin Buri, certain health risks remain, according to Greenpeace Thailand.

Greenpeace Thailand and the Ecological Alert and Recovery - Thailand (Earth) Foundation raised concerns earlier about the recent disappearance of a 25-kilogramme tube of caesium-137 from the National Power Plant 5A Co facility at the 304 Industrial Park in tambon Tha Tum of Si Maha Phot district.

They said on Tuesday that even though authorities announced they safely contained any contamination risk at the closed plant, they could not confirm it came from the missing radioactive tube.

The container's disappearance and the delay in it being reported showed recklessness by the management, which prevented the government from handling the matter swiftly and efficiently, the joint statement read.

Police suspect the missing tube was stolen, sold as metal scrap and later melted down.

Police spokesman Pol Maj Gen Archayon Kraithong said National Power Plant 5A Co found it was missing on March 7 and reported it to Si Maha Phot police station on March 10.

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