Authorities slow to take action on radioactive material in İzmir

Authorities slow to take action on radioactive material in İzmir

ISTANBUL / Radikal
Authorities slow to take action on radioactive material in İzmir

A photo shows the area affected by radioactive waste of the factory. DHA Photo

Radioactive substances found among the waste at a factory in İzmir have sparked questions as to how authorities failed to take any precautions until daily Radikal reported on the incident on Dec. 3.

The condition of the area is much worse than initially thought, according to nuclear engineer Professor Tolga Yarman.

“This radioactive substance is an atomic substance called ‘Europium 152 isotope.’ I don’t understand how this substance could enter our country,” he told the daily.

“Certainly, some other radioactive chemicals also entered along with it. They said these substances were inadvertently fused, which is hardly possible. The waste was buried under the plant area, but the situation is very grave since the substance fused and used in production also contains radioactive [particles]. It is very urgent to find and check the batteries produced by this plant, while those worked in the production process must be checked. I am worried about the risk of cancer to them,” Yarman said, adding that the Turkish Atomic Energy Agency (TAEK) must immediately file a criminal complaint about the matter.

Radioactive chemicals were reportedly first detected at the Aslan Avcı Lead Plant in the Aegean province of İzmir’s Gaziemir district in 2007, at which point relevant institutions were notified.

Officials from TAEK, however, did not visit the site until Dec. 3, after the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry demanded data from the relevant institutions on the basis of Radikal’s article.

 “This is a serious crime. There is negligence on a number of different levels even if it was not deliberate. Why didn’t TAEK investigate that? The area must be placed in quarantine. It is not obvious how far these radioactive substances spread into the water table. These substances must be transferred to a secure place,” Yarman said.

According to an official at TAEK, the agency discovered some substances containing radiation when they investigated the plant five years ago, prompting the Provincial Directorate of Environment and other institutions to order the buried waste to be removed and sent to the Çekmece Nuclear Research and Education Center in Istanbul.

İzmir Environment and Urban Planning Provincial Director Ata Erpolat said TAEK sent a letter to them, ordering them not to take any measures without first informing the agency.

“We sent this letter to the relevant institutions, including the İzmir Metropolitan Municipality, Gaziemir Municipality, the [İzmir] Governor’s Office and [health authorities], notifying them not to take any action about the radioactive substances. All the requirements on the subject were stated in the legislation, and TAEK was the only authority [that could have a say on the matter]. These substances must be removed immediately,” Erpolat said.