Clocks with secrets
[b]Belarus-made devices able to detect high radiation levels [/b]When disaster struck at the Fukushima nuclear power station in Japan, telephones began ringing at Minsk’s Polimaster Ltd; the company’s e-mail box filled with messages. Companies in Japan, China, Singapore, Korea, Russia’s Siberia and other nearby countries are eager to buy devices able to detect and measure radiation.
When disaster struck at the Fukushima nuclear power station in Japan, telephones began ringing at Minsk’s Polimaster Ltd; the company’s e-mail box filled with messages. Companies in Japan, China, Singapore, Korea, Russia’s Siberia and other nearby countries are eager to buy devices able to detect and measure radiation.
Actually, only professionals can tackle the critical situation observed at the nuclear plant. Staff from the Minsk company are among them, offering equipment which has been used in dozens of states, including Japan, for many years. In fact, Japan — which was the first to experience the awful effects of radiation — is an expert on devices designed to detect and measure death-bringing radiation.
“We’re treating requests regarding the Japanese disaster with all seriousness, making the fulfilment of these orders our priority,” explains the Head of Polimaster’s Foreign Economic Relations Department, Sergey Lukash. “The process of making our devices is complicated and time consuming. However, to meet demand and facilitate prompt dispatch, we’ve been working at weekends, and for longer hours. Moreover, we’re offering profitable financial terms to our Japanese customers. Our staff are worried by the tragedy and are keen to help those in need, using their intellectual and production potential.”
The company produces dozens of varieties of devices and equipment, which ensure complex radiation control. Their detailed description would be interesting to professionals alone but Polimaster also manufactures a unique watch which boasts great popularity. Their wrist watch includes a dosimeter, alongside the usual hands and face, with an LCD screen displaying radiation levels at the touch of a button. It’s quite smart enough to be worn by businessmen. You can even set a level at which an alarm will sound if radiation is detected. No other firm produces such watches on a large scale.
“Initially, we used components found in Belarus-made wrist watches,” explains Mr. Lukash, showing booklets with photos. “We used more common foreign brands for our foreign customers and are now liaising with a famous Hong Kong company which has developed a design for a watch-dosimeter. It supplies the cases and timing mechanisms, allowing us to install a miniature dosimeter inside, of our own production. We also manufacture an independent model and provide calibration for our products, using our own equipment. Such watches can measure the strength of radiation across a wide spectrum and under severe conditions.”
In fact, the watch is popular with all those who regularly work with radiation or are subject to it in their daily life: pilots, regular air travellers (since radiation is higher at altitude), doctors, metallurgy workers and defect detection specialists. Sources of radiation are used in industry, agriculture and health care. In recent times, the theme of protection against radiation has gained even more topicality, since there is a perpetual threat of terrorists’ using of a nuclear bomb. Workers at nuclear power stations, who service the reactors, deserve special attention, being given Polimaster devices. Meanwhile, thousands of such devices have been bought by Japanese companies and organisations. Chinese security service officers wore watch-dosime-ters during the 2008 Beijing Games and Expo-2010 in Shanghai, fearful of terrorist attacks.
Belarus began making dosimeters in 1992, after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The technogenic catastrophe was followed by a significant political and economic crisis, caused by the USSR’s collapse. At that time, a group of talented specialists — headed by inventor and talented entrepreneur Alexander Antonovsky — left Minsk’s famous Scientific-Research Instrument Making Institute to form a new company, with Alexander as the General Director. “We focused on miniaturising radiation control devices,” he explains. “The move has placed us among the global leaders. We’ve managed not only to reduce weight and size, which is of great importance, but have cut energy consumption. Our devices can operate for twelve months, like ordinary watches, using a small battery.”
The company witnessed its first success after designing a simple dosimeter controlled by a single button; it proved popular in the industrially developed countries of Europe, America and Asia, with the firm exporting dozens of thousands. Later, it began producing small-size dosimeters for the Belarusian customs service, in addition to larger devices which alert officers to smuggling of hazardous materials, such as radiation-irradiating metals. Interestingly, the Belarusian border service is now being equipped with similar devices paid for with an international grant financed by Japan.
When the Russian Kursk submarine tragically sank, Minsk-made miniature devices measured radiation through the vessel’s special trap-doors, showing that it was within safe limits. Now, talks are underway on how radiation could be controlled at the Olympic Sochi in 2014 and at the future Belarusian nuclear power plant. Security is vital for nuclear power stations all over the globe.
By Vladimir Bibikov