About 70 employees at a foundry in the Kabin Buri industrial park and some people living near the plant will be tested by health officials after it was discovered that the missing ceasium-137 has already been melted, along with other metallic scrap at the facility, Prachin Buri Governor Narong Nakornjinda told a news conference this morning (Monday).
He has also ordered the plant closed and declared off-limits to unauthorised personnel after officials detected radiation at the foundry, one of two searched yesterday by officials from the Office of Atoms for Peace.
The governor said that, after several checks, officials were confident that the radiation they detected at the site came from the caesium-137 contained in a steel cylinder, which went missing from a steam power plant in Si Maha Phot district. Caesium-137 does not exist naturally.
The officials were told that the cylinder and its radioactive content had already been melted in the furnace with other metal scraps. Residues of the cylinder and its contents, after the melting process, will remain within the closed melting system.
Therefore, a decision was taken to order the plant closed and declared off-limits, said the governor adding, however, that no radiation has been detected in areas about ten metres from a large bag in which traces of caesium-137 were detected.
Permsuk Sutchaphiwat, secretary-general of the Office of Atoms for Peace, explained that ceasium-127, when heated to a temperature exceeding 600 degrees Celsius, will turn to soot, but some residue can still be found in the furnace.
Police, meanwhile, said that all the people who are responsible for the safe keeping of the caesium-137 will be questioned to discover how one of the canisters went missing from the power plant.
Dr. Surin Suebsueng, the provincial health chief, said that he has ordered a check of treatment records at all hospitals in the province for the past month, to find out if any patients presented with conditions which could have been caused by radiation exposure.
No cases have been found to date, he added.
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