DU violated rules by selling radioactive scrap: Govt

Last Updated: Friday, May 7, 2010 - 16:59

New Delhi: Under attack on the Mayapuri radiation accident, Government on Friday said Delhi University had violated rules by selling scrap containing radioactive material and that those responsible would not be spared.

Minister of State in the PMO Prithiviraj Chavan asserted that all the 19 nuclear plants generating electricity in the country were completely safe and mechanisms would be strengthened in the field of atomic research and medical use as "some lessons have been learnt" from the accident in which one person died.

He told the Lok Sabha that Delhi Police had upgraded the FIR in the case after one person died and that it was looking at "criminal negligence" part in the radiation caused by Cobalt-60.

Against the backdrop of the mishap in the West Delhi scrap market last month, he forcefully argued for the need to put in place a law on fixing compensation in the case of
accidents involving radioactive leakages as there was a "void".

During the Calling Attention Motion, CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta, Sumitra Mahajan (BJP) and B Mahtab and Arjun Charan Sethi (both BJD) demanded that the university authorities be brought to book on charge of criminal negligence as, being "highly educated", they ought to know the repercussions of auctioning the Gamma Cell as scrap.

"Mistake was made by the (Delhi) University in not adhering" to rules and its own undertaking to atomic energy authorities that the device, which was used by its Chemistry
Department, would not be re-sold, Chavan said replying to the Motion.

He said the DU authorities "did not follow rules" and asserted that responsibility will be fixed. "No guilty person will be spared, I assure you," Chavan told the House.

The radioactive leakage occurred when a scrap, which originated from Delhi University`s Chemistry department, was being cut at a shop.

Responding to members` concerns, the minister said all the 112 cobalt slugs related to the accident have since been identified and sent to the Narora Nuclear Power Plant for safe
keeping.

Maintaining that scrap import would now be checked for the
presence of any radioactive material, Chavan assured the House
that detection equipment to scan the scrap were being deployed
at various entry points. "We are conscious of the need to
prevent unauthorised import of radioactive material".

Asserting that the radiation incident "has nothing to do"
with any of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) facilities
or activities, he said the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board
(AERB) had a complete inventory of all radioactive sources in
the country.

There were 10,000 sources with about 3,000 institutions
and licenses were given to users which were "very
responsible," Chavan said.

Observing that at present there was no law on compensation
to the victims of such accidents, he said, "We need to have a
law for compensation in such cases which should deal with
insurance, compensation and related issues."

Police was investigating all aspects of the "very
unfortunate" incident, including criminal negligence. "Action
will be taken against all those found guilty," he said.

The Minister said the incident was caused by
"unauthorised disposal" of the Gamma Cell by Delhi University
as scrap in violation of the Atomic Energy (Safe Disposal of
Radioactive Waste) Rules and the Atomic Energy (Radiation
Protection) Rules.

He said the university has been issued a show-cause notice
by the AERB and to suspend all activities involving the use of
radiation sources.

The opposition members had also castigated the government
for "waking up" only after the Mayapuri incident had occurred
and not having any law to deal with the liability and
compensation in such cases.

In his response, Chavan said four battalions of National
Disaster Response Force had been trained to respond to
radiological emergencies and four more battalions were being
trained.

To further strengthen the response capability, about 1,000
police stations in 35 major cities were being equipped with
radiation monitors and protective gears by the National
Disaster Management Authority. DAE has also set up 18
well-equipped response centres across the country, he added.

PTI



First Published: Friday, May 7, 2010 - 16:59

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