King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology (KACST)

Radiation, Environmental and Early Detection Network

The use of nuclear technology requires an environmental monitoring program to ensure the safety of the environment, and to protect Man from the hazards of radioactive materials, and nuclear accidents. Nuclear accidents are unique, for they incur effects that surpass international frontiers, and can even have a long lasting impact on Earth. Such was the case of the Chernobyl accident in the Ukraine on April 6, 1986. For that purpose, international and national efforts come together to notify of any nuclear or radioactive accident. Many states, including the Kingdom which oversees the operation of the National Radiation, Environmental and Early Detection Network, have adopted a … The Kingdom’s network was recently enhanced to perform with greater precision, effectiveness and broader coverage.

The monitoring stations are scattered across 23 cities in the Kingdom, based on priority needs. These locations are evaluated base on various scientific and technological criteria, such as border cities, cities of high population density, wind direction, etc… They constantly monitor the general level of external radiation exposure within the station’s vicinity in a schedule that details activity level in natural conditions. The KACST computer reads the output of these stations on a daily basis, which allows obtaining program readings for shorter or longer periods. In cases of emergency, when readings exceed certain limits in any of the stations, the station automatically contacts the main hub at KACST in Riyadh. The other stations are then automatically switched to the emergency mode. The measurements are signaled to all stations within the network immediately, then every 10 minutes, until the emergency state is over. Furthermore, four mobile stations that are connected to the network were recently added specifically to cover certain areas where there are no stations, or to simply provide support as needed. The KACST labs are equipped to run advanced radiation and chemical analysis. They are also equipped with spectral analysis systems for gamma radiation and alpha particles, as well as high performance liquid scintillation counter systems, in addition to systems to estimate uranium and monitor radon exposure. The labs investigate specific emergency incidents. Environmental samples are collected from the relevant locations and analyzed to identify industrial radioisotopes from various environments, including the Arab Gulf region. In addition, routine activities are conducted to enhance protection from radiation nationally, whether in the medical or industrial field, or any other.

The Kingdom is also member in many international agreements requiring earl notification of nuclear accidents, in addition to providing technical support in such instances. These binding agreements require the Kingdom to notify of any nuclear events occurring in its territory.

Another achievement has been to train experts at the detection of food stored with irradiation, including poultry, meats and fish, to set a standard for this process and submit it to the Saudi Arabian Standards Organization. The latter, in turn, will adopt it as a Saudi quality standard at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to control the import of irradiated foods.

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