Hazardous radioactive waste has been kept in the Oncology Clinic in downtown Skopje for decades, and poses a “time bomb” in terms of safety, local media reported, citing officials from the clinic.
The waste radioactive cobalt-60, kept in the hospital basement, is very dangerous for human health if people are exposed to its radiation.
Previous directors of the Oncology Clinic had tried to get authorities’ support to find ways for the removal of the waste, but with no concrete results. Now, serious efforts have been made for several months to dispose of the dangerous medical waste outside the country.
In addition to the radioactive cobalt-60, radioactive gold, radium and cesium have also been stored in the Oncology Clinic for the last 50 years. They are used in medicine, but there is no special place to store such waste in Macedonia, broadcaster Nova TV reported on March 15, citing sources familiar with the situation.
The quantity of the radioactive waste is not known as its presence has been measured only from outside the hospital with special appliances.
"The disposal of this radioactive waste is of great importance for Macedonia,” Svetislav Djordjevic, director of Macedonia’s Radiation Safety Agency told Nova.
He said that the agency is now working to find ways to displace this waste from the clinic and to find a another storage place.
Reports on the hazardous storage was confirmed by Oncology Clinic sources, who told the broadcaster that nevertheless there is no danger of radiation, either for patients, clinic employees or for people living elsewhere in the city, because the radioactive cobalt is isolated in a special bunker, closed with metal doors.
The radiation is not higher than the allowable level, they said.
However, Dusko Lukarski, medical physicist and head of the Department of Radiation Physics and Ionizing Radiation Protection at the Oncology Clinic, was cited as saying that the real danger may come if the cobalt is stolen, left in an open space or used to make a bomb.
For these reasons, the bunker is under the observation and protection of the interior ministry.
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