Pilots to fly close to radioactive plume

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 August, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 August, 1995, 12:00am

HELICOPTER pilots will have to fly within one kilometre of a radioactive plume to track its progress in a Daya Bay emergency, it was revealed yesterday.

The Government Flying Services pilot and Royal Observatory flight director on board would wear radiation suits and respirators to protect themselves as sensitive equipment alerted them to where the deadly radiation was, Royal Observatory radiation monitoring assistant director Lam Hung-kwan said.

But he said the aircraft would not go through the plume itself.

'We put a very sensitive piece of equipment on board. An important principle of that is staff would never fly into the plume,' Mr Lam said.

A rapid rise in readings would warn the pilot the aircraft was closing in on the plume, he said.

The flight would track radiation to warn Hong Kong of its approach. The helicopter would not go beyond the border, where the plume would already be diluted by atmospheric turbulence, Mr Lam said.

Workers in hazardous areas would be sent home rather than into protective nuclear shelters between shifts to keep up their morale and avoid panicking the public, radiation health unit chief Cheung Kit-man said.

Government staff had expressed concern about whether they would be required to stay in such shelters during work at the border but had been told they would not at 'education and training' seminars.

In border areas where the public lived, 'it would not be reasonable that these workers should be provided the kind of shelter the public is not given', Mr Cheung said.

The news followed revelations in last week's Sunday Morning Post that senior building services engineer Lau Kwok-fan in the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department wanted to buy a portable shelter using a special air filter to advise the public and in case staff needed it at the border.