Daniel Sprau, a professor in ECU's Environmental Health and Safety Department, traveled to the former Soviet republic as a consultant for the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency in early November. The goal, Sprau said, was to provide recommendations to secure the nation's medical and industrial radiation materials.
"On this mission, we located 'orphan' sources of radiation. We met with many Kazakh ministries, through the IAEA," said Sprau, who has served as a consultant for the Vienna-based IAEA for more than a decade. "We talked with customs agencies, health and environmental agencies, hospitals."
The IAEA was established in the 1950s by the U.N. as a way to promote safe use of nuclear technology around the world. Responding to a request for assistance by Kazakh government officials, Sprau and two other IAEA investigators helped the Kazakhstan National Atomic Energy Authority develop a strategy that would strengthen its control over potentially errant medical and industrial radioactive materials.
"When the former Soviet Union collapsed, the army just left and the Kazakhs were left to their own devices to control or regulate these radiation sources," Sprau said. "The biggest problem they could have is to 'do nothing.' There are a lot of sources nobody has control over. And of course, we don't want them coming here. We want them either to be put to use or placed in a waste disposal site."
Kazakhstan is about five timesthe size of France and shares a long border with Russia, China and burgeoning nations such as Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It is just north of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, although it does not share a border with those nations.
ECU News Bureau