NAT-BARAKAH nuclear plant
The report will be used as a comparative measure once the nuclear plant in Barakah begins operations. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Radiation levels in the UAE are very low compared to most countries of the world, a radiological monitoring report has shown.

The radiation — measured in gamma dose rates — is highest in the mountainous areas near the UAE border with Oman, as well as some parts of Al Dhafra region, and it is lowest near the coastlines, according to the report developed by the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR).

This is the first baseline report by the FANR since its establishment in 2009, to monitor and regulate nuclear activity in the country. It will be used as a comparative measure once the nuclear plant in Barakah begins operations, Ameena Abdouli, manager of the environment lab and infrastructure at FANR, told Gulf News.

“The samples used for this report were collected in between January 1 and December 31, 2015. We will soon launch other reports using samples collected in subsequent years, and all these reports using data from before the plant begins operations will be considered as representing baselines levels,” Abdouli explained.

“We want to reassure residents because our data shows very safe levels of radiation in the UAE. This and all other radiological monitoring reports are available online to all, in our bid to set up a transparent system that will be followed even as the country begins producing peaceful nuclear power,” she added.

The radiological report was officially launched last month, and it was discussed with the press, at a meeting held on December 12.

Monitoring safety

As detailed in the baseline report, samples were collected by 17 different monitoring stations. There were 78 samples of soil, water, cucumber and date palm fruit collected and analysed in the laboratory. In addition, more than 513,000 individual measurements of gamma dose rates were collected from a network of gamma monitoring stations, while 628 measurements were obtained using a portable high pressure ion chamber.

None of the levels of radiation detected, both from natural sources like soil and water and from man-made sources like medical equipment, exceeded levels regulated by FANR. These levels were themselves set using international reference levels in countries with operational nuclear plants, Abdouli explained.

Radiation is all around us, and it is only dangerous if it exceeds certain levels, the official added.

“This is why the FANR’s primary goal is to monitor these levels, and regulate them in a manner that protects residents and the environment,” Abdouli said.

In case any of the levels are exceeded, FANR has a system in place to analyse why it happened, and to take any protective action if required, including evacuation of residents, said Rodrigo Salkinas, senior specialist for emergency preparedness and response at FANR’s radiation safety department.

The UAE is set to produce nuclear power for the first time at its new facility in Barakah. As reported by Gulf News in May, the plant’s operator said it is likely to start operations by end 2019 or the beginning of 2020, once it receives the relevant permissions and operating licenses from FANR.