Construction of storage facilities for disused, but still harmful radio-active sources is now at an advanced stage with the facility expected to be complete in the next 12 months, Minister of State in Vice President Kembo Mohadi's office Davis Marapira has said.
Speaking after a familiarisation tour of the facility, which is located in Hatcliffe, Harare last week, Minister Marapira said the progress so far is impressive.
"There is excellent progress from what we got from the contractor here. The process is actually 90 percent complete, but there is an administration block which needs to be done within the next 12 months so that everyone is here to make sure that all the radio-active processes are done properly through proper structures," said Minister Marapira.
He said once complete, the facility is expected to reduce threats to people's health, the environment and security posed by disused radio-active sources that may not have been taken back to their countries of origin.
"By bringing these sources here, technocrats are able to control radio-active sources and be able to toll them at one place before taking them back to the manufacturers," said Minister Marapira.
Radiation Protection Authority of Zimbabwe board chairperson Dr Nthokozo Ndlovu said international standards require all radio-active sources to be repatriated to the country of origin when they are no longer effective for use.
This ensures there are no chances of radiation exposure to people or the environment.
But Dr Ndlovu said some of companies using radio-active sources in Zimbabwe have been failing to send them back to their manufacturers owing to a number of challenges including funds, posing a danger to people's health and the environment.
"As a country we need to protect the people and the environment against the harmful effects of ionised radiation and as such, this facility comes in at the right time considering that we have been experiencing difficulties in exporting used radio-active sources back to where they would have come from.
"So this facility will ensure that while we are pursuing those avenues of exporting that sort of material back to the manufacturer, it is very safely kept, stored in very international standard manner," she said.
Designed by an engineer from the Local Government, Public Works and National Housing ministry and constructed by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces with funding from Treasury.
The facility's construction was supervised by the United Nation's International Energy Atomic Agency.
Radiation exposure can cause acute health effects such as skin burns and acute radiation syndrome also known as radiation sickness.
It can also result in long-term health effects such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Radio-active sources are mostly used by manufacturing companies.