(AFP) – Aug 30, 2008
BRUSSELS (AFP) — Belgian authorities reduced on Saturday a safety zone near a medical laboratory in the southern town of Fleurus where a leak of radioactive iodine occurred recently.
On Friday, authorities had recommended precautionary measures to avoid the risk of contamination in a five-kilometre (three-mile) zone near the laboratory, where a leak of radioactive iodine was detected last weekend.
Police cruised the streets instructing residents over a loudspeaker to not eat fruit and leafy vegetables from their gardens or drink milk from local farms within the zone.
However, on Saturday, the zone was reduced to three kilometres where authorities recommended that fruit and vegetables from local gardens not be consumed until September 7.
"Tests carried out (on Friday) do not detect radioactivity any more in either the air or the water," a statement from the government's crisis centre said.
"Further tests will take place in the coming days to follow the situation closely," it added.
The incident put local residents on edge because authorities had at first said their was no risk of contamination only later to urge the precautionary measures.
Vice Prime Minister Didier Reynders told the Belga news agency on Saturday that he had ordered Interior Minister Patrick Dewael and Energy Minister Paul Magnette to produce a report on exactly what had happened and how the incident was handled.
The leak occurred last weekend at the Institut des Radioelements, a laboratory which makes radioisotopes used in medical imaging and treating cancer.
French-language Belgian newspaper Le Soir reported Saturday that Belgian and French nuclear safety authorities had found security lapses at the lab in a joint audit in November 2007.
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