Radioactive Substance Dumped Illegally

On the 17th of February we spoted a story on the Channel News Asia website stating "Indonesian authorities call for calm after radiation found at housing complex near Jakarta"

At that time there was not much in the way of information other than authorities in Jakarta had detected elevated levels of Caesium-137 during routine testing of it's radiation detection equipment at the end of January. We thought we would keep an eye on the story for a while and see what unfolded before posting on it, here is what has happened. 

The Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency (Bapeten), issued a statement saying they had dected the elevated levels of Caesium-137 and were undertaking investigations to loctae the source, and how it got there. Bapeten got decontamination efforts underway and said the radiation levels had dropped during this time, the decontamination effort has involved removing 400 drums of soil and vegeatation from the area, all, of which were sent to the National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan) for analysis. 

Indonesia does not have an active nuclear power industry, but there is a reactor which is used for research is about 3km away from the site of the contamination, and authorities said that the Caesium-137 did not come from a nuclear reactor leak but rather industrial sources. At this point, February 20th, it was reported that police had begun an investigation into the incident, and Bapeten had begun collecting information on known users of Caesium-137 across Indonesia. 

On the 21st of February local news outlets reported that 2 people living in the housing complex where the radiation was detected had tested positive for Caesium-137 "but the level was still under the limit, so the exposure won’t cause any bodily harm,” stated Bapeten chief secretary Hendriyanto Hadi Tjahyono. 

On the 27th of February we then saw news reports that police believed they had tracked down the possible owner of the Caesium, and that he is a registered employee of Batan, the National Nuclear Agency. At that point this was not confirmed however, and Batan spokesperson Heru Umbara said the agency was "still conducting an investigation on the possible suspect, which includes the owner of the house. “We do not know the owner, but the person might go into retirement in a month’s time,” said Heru.

Today, March 2nd, the Jakarta Post reported that the Batan employee is indeed the owner of the Caesium, National Police spokesperson, Sr. Comr. Asep Adi Saputra said that the man, identified by the initials SM, had been keeping radioactive substances at his house for a long time. “He opened a decontamination service, too, so [the service] was a part of his livelihood,” Police found the radioactive isotope Caesium-137 along with other radioactive substances in SM’s house, and determined they had been there for some period of time by the level of decay displayed. 

However, SM is currently still only a witness in this investigation! The police have said he could soon be named a suspect and charged under a 1997 law on nuclear energy for illegally storing radioactive materials in his house. If charged, SM faces a maximum punishment of two years’ imprisonment and a Rp 100 million (US$7,154) fine.


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