This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Oh, And By The Way . . . 

Don't we trust our federal agencies, and why should we not? 

They work under strict guidelines for safety and security, when they are entrusted with the safe-keeping of radioactive nuclear substances, for example, like the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.  And then some news hound discovers that through an instance of rather disconcerting inattention, this very agency overlooked securing a potentially dangerous radioactive material, and simply forgot it.

It was 'mislaid'.  Attention was obviously elsewhere.  How does one forget to maintain control over a substance well known to be dangerous to human health?  A substance, moreover, that malign forces would be only too glad to obligingly take out of the casual hands of those tasked to ensure its safe-keeping. 

We are informed, the reading public, that through a rather egregious instance of forgetfulness a supply of cesium was misplaced.
"The CNSC takes safety seriously.  We will continue to investigate this event to identify and correct the gaps that led to this lapse in inventory control.  ...at no time was there a risk to the health or safety of CNSC staff or the general public...."

CNSC officials happened to be in the process of conducting a routine demonstration using a radioactive material, cesium-137 on the 14th floor of 280 Slater Street in Ottawa.  Summer students were being taught how to locate hidden radioactive material with the use of radiation detection equipment.  Demonstration over, the material remained in the meeting room.

Until it was discovered three weeks later by people setting up the meeting room for another purpose.  Radiation protection staff were called in to secure the substance, and to remove it.  Under other circumstances, CNSC refers to cesium-137 as a "high risk radioactive nuclear substance", governed by the IAEA Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources.

CNSC refers to cesium-137 in this safety-first manner when it disciplines companies for slip-ups in the handling of the substance, and when embarking upon a disciplinary ruling, in respect of the IAEA's code of conduct requiring CNSC to track the location and possession of all high-risk sealed sources, such as the substance that they had themselves mislaid.

"The CNSC holds itself to the same high safety standard as it would for its licensees.  CNSC is currently reviewing its internal procedures to prevent a similar situation."  This is not to be considered a serious breach of safety guidelines; the agency stressed that the Cesium-137 in question represented a very low-risk quantity of nuclear substance.

An independent energy consultant explained that the substance is highly controlled: "One of the safety requirements for licensees using this stuff is that people who are potentially exposed to it must wear disometers, which are devices that measure their exposure", for without the use of such a meter it is difficult to determine whether an unhealthy dose of radiation may have affected someone.

Good thing Canadians can rely on the sobriety and efficiency of such a professional organization as the CNSC, to keep us safe and secure when it comes to the use of such dangerous substances.

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