Head of nuclear authority opposed to full body x-ray scanners at Czech airports

The Czech government is currently deciding whether to introduce full body scanners at the country’s airports, a move backed by the interior minister. But not everybody is in favour of the security measure. The head of the Czech nuclear safety authority says the risks from the radiation used by the scanners could be too high, and is calling for an alternative approach.

Moves to bring in full body scanners at airports around the world sped up following the thwarting of a planned terrorist attack on a flight to the United States on Christmas Day. Several countries have either introduced the x-ray scanners or are planning to do so. Here in the Czech Republic, the minister of the interior, Martin Pecina, says he is in favour of installing them at the country’s airports.

But the head of the State Office for Nuclear Security has come out against the idea. Dana Drábová says other alternatives should be considered, such as ultrasound or personal checks. So how dangerous does she consider body scanners?

“You couldn’t put it straightforward in this way, because the dose received by x-ray scanners is really very low, even compared to a usual x-ray diagnosis in medical procedures. But still we have to ask about the justification – that means, that the benefits are bigger than the possible risks.”

Friday’s edition of the newspaper Hospodářské noviny reported that the nuclear authority will refuse to issue a permit for the scanners. However, the government could overrule Dana Drábová’s office and bring them in anyway. And she says it is more likely that they will in fact be introduced.

“There might be a situation where really the risks for safety of civil aviation will be so high that the use of x-ray scanners will be justified. But we need this analysis, that the risks from, let’s say, terrorist attacks are so serious that it justifies the use of ionising radiation. So there could be in the future, and even in the near future, a decision by the government that the use of x-ray scanners is justified.”

The Czech interior minister is due to inform the EU of Prague’s position on full body scanners within the next few weeks.