The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has approved three new national projects for Qatar for diagnosing cancer, especially for children, combating some animal diseases, and managing naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) from oil and gas extraction.
The new projects were approved under IAEA’s technical cooperation program which effectively contributes to socioeconomic development by supporting member states to attain self-reliance and sustainability of their national programs in the peaceful application of nuclear energy.
The new projects, which will begin in January and continue for three years, were announced in a press conference held at the headquarters of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MoECC). Addressing the press conference, Assistant Undersecretary for Environmental Affairs at MoECC Abdul Hadi Nasser Al Marri said that the Radiation Protection Department is currently updating the rules for managing NORM resulting from the oil industry, which it issued in 2013.
Al Marri who is also National Liaison Officer for Technical Cooperation Programmes at IAEA said that the move aims to ensure that workers in these companies are not exposed to radiation emanating from the NORM.
It seeks to ensure that the environment is not polluted with these radioactive wastes, in line with international safety standards.
He said that the cooperation between Qatar and the IAEA witnessed the launch of seven national projects, covering the fields of agriculture, and food safety from radioactive pollutants.
“Three projects in the field of treatment and diagnosis using radiological techniques, and two projects in the field of radiation safety and prevention of radiation which are being implemented by the Radiation Protection Department,” said Al Al Marri. He said that these projects include developing best practices using nuclear techniques in soil, nutrients, water, and plants to increase feed production, strengthening national capabilities in the field of food safety to test and monitor residues “contaminants” using nuclear techniques among others. “Qatar is currently participating in 14 regional projects in the fields of agriculture, education, four projects in the health sector, seven environmental radiation safety projects, and another livestock project,” said Al Al Marri.
He noted that Qatar has prepared a set of guidelines that give agencies working with radiation preventive guidance for the purpose of ensuring the safe use of radiological materials and devices following the international safety standards of the IAEA.
“MoECC is currently participating in a regional plastic pollution project with the agency, in addition to the Corn for Food Initiative, which aims to increase the cycle of nuclear techniques in the productivity of food crops and livestock and food safety, which contributes to achieving self-sufficiency in fresh foods production among others,” said Al Al Marri.
Director IAEA Division for Asia and the Pacific Dr Jane Gerado-Abaya lauded the capabilities of the Qatari laboratories, which made them accredited rehabilitation and education centres for member states, to train their cadres on nuclear medicine devices and radiation therapy for cancer patients.
She said that the food safety laboratory addresses the risks of food contaminants and capacity building of countries to ensure the safety of food exports and imports.
“IAEA is currently cooperating with Qatar in studying environmental problems, including plastic pollution in the seas, which is one of the biggest challenges currently facing the world,” said Dr Jane.