The nuclear safety regulator has objected to the move to install full-body scanners at airports, citing ‘exposure to harmful radiation’ passing through passengers’ bodies.
The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board sent its report to the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, which now plans to replace the controversial ‘backscatter’ technology scanners which allows agents to see through clothes by scattering low-dose X-rays at a passenger’s front and back.
Radiological health physicists feel that a spike in the intensity of the scanning beam, or a slowdown or pause in the timing of its sweep across a body, could cause significant radiation damage.
Backscatters are likely to be replaced by a less-controversial model, the “millimeter wave” scanner, which produces a body image but doesn’t use X-rays.
AERB was part of an inter-disciplinary committee set up to look into implications of installing the scanners, from privacy concerns to health risks.
“Before we install the (new) scanners, we will prepare a report based on feedback from at least 4,000 passengers who pass through them. Some 9-10 companies will demonstrate their products,” a senior official said.
The government plans to test the scanners with an “altered calibration”. The scanners must be re-calibrated to detect weapons or explosives in the folds of garments like a sari, he said.