Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Borders to be equipped with nuclear detectors by April

After one-week intensive training of officers from the security services, including Botswana Defense Force (BDF), early this month, the Botswana Police Services (BPS) and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), as well as the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS), the level of security preparedness at the borders is now being remarkably elevated.

Stephen Williams, Director, Department of Radiation Protection, told the Sunday Standard that the department is awaiting at least 30 pagers from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for detecting radioactive materials, intended for use at specified gazetted entry points into the country by respective user departments.

“It is intended that as of April 1st 2010, all the thirty pagers should have been distributed to the borders. In addition, there will also be radiation identifiers, which because they are a bit more expensive, were ordered in less quantity than the pagers, for picking the specific type of substance inside any form of container without having to open it,” said Williams.

Williams pointed out that, all the targeted officers, especially frontline officers, have been adequately equipped with the relevant knowledge during their one week training, to be able to effectively use the pagers, and determine when there is lurking danger.

“However, as for the identifiers, since it takes specialized personnel to use them, it was not packaged in the one week training conducted in Gaborone from 1st March to 5th March 2010, and therefore will only be allocated to those already knowledgeable in their use,” posited Williams.

Mention was also made of the fact that for all the goods that carry acceptable radioactive materials, permission shall have been sought by those affected from the relevant authorities in their respective countries.

Thus, appropriate measures will be ensured to align entry points with available devices, so that only where security provision exists would people be allowed to enter and present due permits.

In the meantime, it has been indicated that the department aims to ensure continuous exercises to determine the effectiveness of the pagers and the extent of the porosity of the borders.

While the introduction of the radiation sensors at the borders are generally viewed as a milestone in the right direction development, concern has been raised in relation to the porosity of borders at a number of border villages where the fence has been dilapidated for some time.

One case in point is the Ramotswa Village where it was in the past established that even criminal syndicates use it for human trafficking and drugs smuggling, with little chance of being caught.

Ross Sanoto, Director, Defence, Justice and Security in the Office of the President is currently on leave and so could not respond to the issue of what measures are in place to deal with dilapidated border fences.

Speaking to The Sunday Standard on the sidelines of a meeting at the Gaborone Sun Hotel grounds in February, a nuclear expert from the IAEA, Scott Purvis, could not deny that they feared for the use of chemical weapons by terrorists during the World Cup games.

Moreover, preliminary assessment report presented at the February meeting revealed that the borders were porous, and that there is no effective system to detect any dangerous materials upon entry or departure at the borders. A similar situation prevails at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSK) according to the report.

“Even though Botswana does not have significant quantities of radioactive material, it is nonetheless necessary to prevent the potential for its being used either against citizens here or in neighboring countries,” said the IAEA envoy.


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The Telegraph September 30

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 30, 2020.