UN helps Chinese authorities search for radioactivity after quake

UN helps Chinese authorities search for radioactivity after quake

Searching for survivors in the aftermath of the devasting earthquake in China (16 May 2008)
Training and equipment supplied by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has helped emergency workers search for sources of radioactivity during rescue work following the massive earthquake that hit China’s Sichuan province last month.

Training and equipment supplied by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has helped emergency workers search for sources of radioactivity during rescue work following the massive earthquake that hit China’s Sichuan province last month.

In the two weeks immediately following the earthquake, a team of radioactive source search and recovery experts fanned out across all disaster-stricken areas. The teams used radiation detection equipment to pinpoint the location of 50 sources and safely recover all of them, according to China’s National Nuclear Safety Administration. Most of the sources were used in industry.

Under an IAEA Technical Cooperation Project launched in early 2007, staff from Chinese national authorities were trained in how to search for radioactive sources, and to then control and dispose of them safely.

A series of week-long national training workshops on recovery was attended by some 100 Chinese search team members from each of the country’s 31 provinces.

“At the time of the training workshops, we had no clue that the training and equipment would be used in such a disaster,” explained Nabil Lutfi, the IAEA Programme Management Officer responsible for organizing the workshops.

In addition to the training that Chinese authorities received, the IAEA made an in-kind contribution of radiation detection and search equipment.

The 7.9-magnitude earthquake of 12 May devastated China’s mountainous Sichuan province, killing an estimated 69,000 people and causing extensive property damage.