JAKARTA – The Indonesian nuclear authorities said on Monday that they would investigate the radioactive contamination of a property in a residential complex outside of Jakarta and called for calm.
The Nuclear Regulators Authority (Bapeten) issued a statement on Friday asking residents to stay away from a piece of land in Serpong, 43 km south of Jakarta, because it was contaminated. Local media said the country was next to a volleyball court.
Bapeten said it did a routine radioactivity test for radioactivity in the region at the end of last month and found an increased level of cesium-137 radioactive isotope, which raised alarms among some locals and raised questions about its source.
Radiation levels were 680 microSv per hour on first discovery last month, compared to a normal threshold of 0.03 microSv per hour, Bapeten spokesman Abdul Qohhar told Reuters on Monday.
“We will investigate the source of the contamination,” said Qohhar, adding that residents do not need to panic about the current level.
External exposure to large amounts of cesium-137 can cause burns, radiation sickness, and even death in some cases. It also increases the risk of cancer.
“Right now … we are focusing on remediation so that residents are not exposed to exceptional radiation in their activities,” said Qohhar, adding that nine residents would be screened for radioactive exposure.
Qohhar said that weekend radiation levels dropped due to the wallpaper decontamination process, which involved removing soil and felling plants.
Bapeten said it has been regularly checking radioactivity in the region since 2013.
Djarot Sulistio Wisnubroto, a researcher with the National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan), said the effects should not be harmful to residents and the levels have now dropped to 20 to 30 microSv per hour.
Indonesia has no active nuclear industry, but a reactor that is used for research purposes is about 3 km from the site of the contamination.
Agus Budhie Wijatna, a researcher in nuclear science at the University of Gadjah Mada, said that the nearby reactor is unlikely to be contaminated because it is regularly inspected.
“The police should immediately investigate the party dealing with the waste,” he said, adding that it is possible that it was derived from industrial use. Greenpeace Indonesia’s climate and energy fighter, Hindun Mulaika, asked the nuclear agencies to conduct thorough investigations.
“This incident is a bad precedent for the government and the Indonesian Nuclear Agency (Batan), who have been unable to maintain public security against the dangers of radioactive waste,” she said.