Dodoma. The Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission (TAEC), a state agency responsible for regulating all atomic energy matters in the country, is running a vigilance campaign to counter and uproot incidents of illegal importation of radiation sources into the East African nation.
The initiative championed by the country’s atomic energy watchdog in cooperation with other like-minded institutions also focuses on stamping out a negative wave of marketing of the atomic radiation-contaminated scrap metal across the country.
Prof Lazaro Busagala, the Director General of TAEC, revealed that there had been an increase in the unauthorised importation of various radiation sources in the country, endangering the national security and the citizens’ health.
He revealed the details when the newly–appointed Tanzania Ambassador to Vienna, Austria, Naimi Hamza Aziz, paid a special visit at the Commission’s Headquarters, mapped at the fringe of the capital Dodoma.
TAEC has managed to detect and legally deal with 17 incidences of such poor tendencies in the different regions at the country’s borders, which is a grim revelation.
“For instance, in one among the notorious incidents, our intelligent system managed to nab a local citizen in Dar es Salaam who illegally imported more than 9kg of processed Uranium (U238 Uranium, 2.6× 109Bq/g),” he detailed.
Despite having vital socioeconomic benefits, if not handled professionally, atomic radiation can spread negative effects to the human body, including destruction of body cells, serious eye diseases and blindness, loss of manhood, and other environmental destructions, experts warn.
Concerning scrap metals, Prof Busagala urged people dealing with the materials to seek scientific approval from TAEC to ensure the metals are free from destructive radiations.
“It is prudent for the scrap waste metal dealers to seek our scientific advice and similarly abide by the other set radiation safety protocols, including having their stores at least 500 m away from people residents,” he expressed.
He insisted that, if not checked properly, the scrap metal business can bring about major socioeconomic havoc.
“The business incorporates scrap metal crushing and recycling into various products, including building materials; thus, if the metals contain radiations, it may lead to radiation exposure,” Prof Busagala warned.
In Tanzania, scrap metal has become a popular business, assisting hundreds and thousands of Tanzanians from all walks of life and ages to improve their livelihoods by gathering and marketing the scrap metals at the more than 106 registered companies nationwide.
“Despite playing a key role in fueling economic gains and facelifting the country’s environmental status, the scrap metal trade has dangerous repercussions in its otherwise reality,” he insisted.
To curtail the challenge, he informed that the commission was working round the clock to scientifically inspect all of the country’s radiation source centres to test the radiation extents and ensure the public and environment are free from any effect of the rays.
“We’re also working to inspect the imported goods in the human food sector, livestock and fertilisers to ensure the products are radiation-free,” he assured.
During 2021/2022, TAEC managed to increase inspections of imported food products to at least 66,609 inspections, an increase of 274 per cent compared to 7,817 inspections conducted in 2016/2017.
For her part, the Tanzania Ambassador in Vienna, Naimi Hamza Aziz, said she would use her new position to ensure Tanzania is curving a new niche in the global atomic sector.
With the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the world’s centre for cooperation in the nuclear field, based in Vienna, Austria, Aziz expressed a high commitment to heighten Tanzania’s cooperation with the global atomic agency.
“I will work over the possible opportunities to bring about more relevant projects into Tanzania, especially those aligned with the country’s prioritised areas,” the envoy ensured.
Tanzania has been a member of the IAEA since January 6, 1976, benefiting from technical and facility assistance in implementing several projects in the health, agriculture, livestock and energy sectors, to mention but a few.
On June 8, 2023, IAEA signed the Country Programme Framework (CPF) for 2023–2027 with Tanzania, outlining almost a dozen areas of cooperation, which are the nuclear legal framework; nuclear and radiation safety and nuclear security; food and agriculture; human health; water resource management; energy planning; industry; and nuclear knowledge development and management.
Valentine Oforo is a freelance journalist based in Dodoma, Tanzania. He is available at email@example.com.