Presence of more radioactive sources in Mayapuri feared
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Last Updated: Sunday, April 25, 2010, 15:16
Mumbai: Fearing presence of more radioactive sources in Delhi scrap yard Mayapuri, National Disaster Management Authority and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) plan to carry out a multi-pronged approach survey in the area.

So far eight victims have suffered in this month after exposure of radioactive material in Mayapuri. All of them are still in a critical condition with dangerously low platelet counts and depleted bone marrows. Thousands of people in the area now live in fear.

AERB officials said, so far a joint team of NDMA, AERB and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and Department of Atomic Energy crisis management has detected 11 sources of radioactive cobalt-60 from Mayapuri scrap yard using 'Tele-detectors'.

"But the scrap dealers and the people in the area have to cooperate with the authorities. We have to carry out thorough searches at the scrap yard, shop by shop, through close inspection and this is our proposal," a senior official of the team told a news agency.

Mayapuri is a junk metal capital of India and giant containers of scrap imported from all over the world.

So far, the BARC, which has the waste disposal plant, AERB and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) or the NDMA had no control over such materials being shipped into the country, officials said, adding if India had a policy of checking the ports, the Mayapuri tragedy could have been averted.

Radioactive Cobalt-60 is a widely used radioisotope in industrial radiography, medical radiology, large food processing units and laboratories. The gamma rays emitted by it causes skin burns, cancer and death.

"The magnitude of risk to health depends on the quantity of Cobalt-60, length of exposure, distance from the source and whether the substance is inhaled or ingested," said a nuclear inspector of AERB adding that it takes nearly 5.27 years for it to lose radioactivity by even 50 percent.

However, Home Ministry along with NDMA-AERB-BARC-DAE team have drawn a plan to install scanners at all major ports. Electronic Corporation of India will be supplying scanners.

Nearly 4000 tonnes of junk metal enter India every day. As per the revised Radiological Protection Rule of 2004 (first Radiological rule was made in 1971) under the Indian Atomic Energy Act of 1962, the punitive action on the guilty will be more severe now onwards, the official said.

"We agree that it is an international problem, but at least India should not become a dumping ground for radioactive material which if falls in wrong hands could be a disaster for the people of India," he cautioned.

The AERB-DAE team will providing a list of dos and don'ts to the scrap dealers in the country and also provide them with some instruments to carry out preliminary check up for any possible radioactivity and their men will also be trained for the same, he added.


First Published: Sunday, April 25, 2010, 15:16

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