Radioactive dump planned for Port Moresby

Work is underway to develop a law that will be used to  regulate the use  and disposal of radioactive or nuclear materials in the country.

A reliable source within the National Health Department says the department is taking the lead to develop this law which will be beneficial not only in the health sector, but also in other industries as well, including agriculture and transport.

In the health sector, this law will be  needed urgently to be used  to replace the radiation source for the cobalt machine at the National Cancer Unit in  Lae, Morobe Province.

The cobalt machine was brought into the country under some special circumstances close to 10 years ago, but since then PNG has signed the Radiation Protection Act and has the obligation to implement it to protect human life and the environment from the harmful effects of radioactive materials.

The source from NDOH has also agreed that the cobalt machine is now an outdated  machine in many parts of the world who are using  new technology in radiotherapy such as a linear accelerator.

However, he said it is not an easy process to just discard a cobalt machine and begin to use a linear accelerator because of a number of reasons.

“The idea  is to remove a cobalt system with  an advanced technology of treatment, but we are very cautious in changing quickly because we have many reasons. The change to new technology will be done  in phases.’’

The  factors that must be considered include having people to be trained to operate the new technology. In addition, the cobalt machine is able to withstand power blackouts which may be a problem with a linear accelerator.

“You need a very strong system in place before you can put in the new equipment,’’ he said.

He said the machine has gone past its working lifespan of five years.

Meanwhile, the source has also commented that there are many ways to treat cancer and not just in radiotherapy.

These are surgery, chemotherapy and laboratory services which are needed for diagnosing and ensuring that the right type of cancer is treated.

All specialties also need to work together to address cancer which also needs prevention messages to be given  to people at the primary health level.
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