Belgian firm under scrutiny over radioactive leak

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The Institute for Radioactive Elements is under fire for stopping production of medical isotopes Tuesday despite discovering a radioactive leak over the weekend.

27 August 2008

BELGIUM -- The production of medical isotopes of the Institute for Radioactive Elements (IRE) stopped Tuesday, following report of a radioactive leak over the weekend.

The IRE located near Charleroi admits there was a leak in radioactive iodine last weekend. A huge quantity of iodine had accumulated in the company’s chimney and some of it leaked out.

The IRE manufactures light radioactive material which is used in treatments for cancerous tumours.

According to the Federal Agency of Nuclear Control (FANC), the incident did not pose a danger to the inhabitants in the vicinity as very little radioactive iodine was leaked into the air.

"The contamination in the vicinity of the site was limited," says Karina De Beule of the FANC. "There was no threat to the public health. The IRE personnel were not exposed to abnormal levels or radioactivity either."

The production of medical isotopes has been halted since Tuesday. The authorities are investigating the incident and why it took a long time for the incident to be reported.

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