ISLAMABAD, July 10: The Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) is looking into two unclaimed containers of radioactive material found buried on the premises of an Oil and Gas Development Corporation Limited (OGDCL) workshop in Karachi.
The discovery of the containers has sparked fears that more such material could be in the vicinity and a search has been launched.
It is suspected that the neutron source material was of Soviet origin and could have been lying there for decades.
The PNRA believes that during this period neither the employees working at the facility nor the general public were exposed to radiation since the containers lay buried and the area was not accessible to the people.
“The OGDCL found two containers buried in the compound of their workshop in Korangi, which were suspected to be containing some radioactive material. Therefore, the Regional Nuclear Safety Directorate of PNRA in Karachi was informed on July 2,” PNRA spokesman Zaheer Ayub Baig said.
PNRA inspectors detected radioactivity in the containers, measuring 3x4 feet. The containers had been properly waxed and sealed.
Investigations by the PNRA revealed that the oil and gas company did not have any record of the discovered material. It was, therefore, categorised as ‘orphan radioactive sources’. These are the first ‘orphan’ radioactive sources found in the country.
It is now being presumed that the material could have been buried in the premises by a Soviet oil drilling company that was in possession of the facility before the OGDCL took over in late 60s.
OGDCL says that it was not informed about the material in the premises by the Soviet company that has since wrapped up its operations in Pakistan and left.
The Soviet company might have imported the material for oil well logging, experts believe.“That’s what it appears to be right now, but we are investigating it thoroughly,” a PNRA official said.
The PNRA, the spokesman said, had started surveying the area to find out if more radioactive material was there in the area. Meanwhile, efforts are being made for the safe disposal of the material. He said the material would be given to the KANUPP which had proper disposal arrangements.