How was radioactive material auctioned, police asks university

DU`s department of chemistry staff will be questioned today after the source of the radioactive material, which claimed one life and affected 7 in a west Delhi scrap market, was traced to the department`s laboratory, police said.

New Delhi: The Delhi Police has asked Delhi University how hazardous radioactive Cobalt 60 was auctioned off as scrap and said it wants to "fix responsibility" for the radiation exposure which led to the death of one person and affected seven, an official said Thursday.

"We want to fix responsibility in this case. We have asked the university about the procedure they adopted in auctioning this material to scrap dealers. We are waiting for that," Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) Sharad Aggarwal told IANS.
"A police team had gone to Delhi university today (Thursday) and they have seized some papers," he said.

On Wednesday, police revealed that the radioactive gamma cell containing Cobalt 60 was auctioned by the Delhi University chemistry department two months ago. The police wants to know how the hazardous material was auctioned to scrap dealers.

Aggarwal said they have also written to the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) about safety measures to be adopted while handling radioactive materials and guidelines for their disposal.

"We have also requested them to conduct a thorough inquiry into the incident," he added.

A fortnight ago, the radiation leak was reported from a scrap market in Mayapuri area of west Delhi. Eight people, affected by radiation poisoning, were admitted to various hospitals, and one person died. Another person is battling for life while the others are said to be out of danger.

A team of radiation safety experts from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) Mumbai, the Narora Atomic Power Station (NAPS) and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) identified the radiation source at shop No. D2/32 in Mayapuri Phase-II.

The team located and recovered six sources of different intensity. The radioactive gamma cells were placed in a lead shielded flask. Two more such materials were recovered from scrap dealer Deepak Jain`s warehouse. Jain is still in a critical condition. Further searches led to recovery of two more radioactive materials from another dealer Giriraj Gupta`s shop.

The police officer said gamma cells were used for conducting experiments in analysing the effect of gamma rays on chemicals.

Earlier in the day, Delhi University Vice Chancellor Deepak Pental accepted "moral responsibility" for the radioactive accident. He said: "The university is very apologetic and takes moral responsibility for the damage which was caused by the incident."

"No amount can compensate for those affected but this is a little bit that we can do. We (can) all pitch in and do something for those affected," he said.