Scientist radiates a warm outlook

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 May, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 May, 1996, 12:00am

Leung Wing-mo, 44, is head of the radiation monitoring laboratory at the Royal Observatory. The lab measures background levels of natural radiation, checks for artificial radiation that may come from Daya Bay and has to advise the Government on radiation levels if there is an accident. Mr Leung joined the Royal Observatory in 1982 after working as a physics teacher and at the Space Museum.

What's on your mind? I have to ensure that we keep up to international standards. When we are checking for artificial radiation the samples have such low radioactivity that in more than 99 per cent of cases we can't measure anything, so the International Atomic Energy Agency sends us blind samples and we send back the results to see if they are in an acceptable range.

We always have a bit of difficulty asking staff to come into the branch. I think it's a general feeling of everyone's that they are not willing to work with radiation.

What can you do about it? All newcomers have a general training programme for a few months. It's always my wish that before they start the programme they work in our laboratory. After a week or two they are not so against the idea.

We do work with radioactive sources but they are kept in a locked safe and we have a strict monitoring programme.

Are you concerned about natural radiation? We all know radiation is bad. People should be educated to reduce the level: use less air-conditioning, open windows to release the radon that comes from the concrete etc. But the natural radiation level is unavoidable and there are a lot of places with levels many times that of Hong Kong.

Are you concerned about Daya Bay? We are always ready for an accident but frankly it doesn't come to my mind very often. We have a set of procedures for everyone to follow and we have drills every couple of months.

Even if I'm asked to do some monitoring in an accident I won't hesitate to go. Everyone asked to do that job will be given adequate protection. If something really bad happens we can warn the staff.