Radiation exposure: AERB gets interim reply from DU

AERB has received a preliminary reply from DU on violation of rules about radioactive waste.

Mumbai: Atomic Energy Regulatory Board
(AERB) on Friday said it had received a preliminary reply from the
Delhi University to the show cause notice sent to it on
violation of rules related to disposal of radioactive waste.

The university had violated "safe disposal of
radioactive waste and radiation protection rules" and
auctioned the gamma cell from its chemistry lab to scrap
dealers in February.

Unaware of radioactive material in the scrap, a few
scrap dealers and workers at Mayapuri in the national capital
received severe radiation injuries and one person died.
AERB had given two weeks time to respond, but "we have
received a reply from Delhi University Registrar today which
states that it is only a preliminary reply and the final one
will follow once a university-appointed committee gives its
report," AERB Chairman S S Bajaj told agency.

The content of the reply was not disclosed.

Bajaj said the board has put up the reply before a
Standing Committee that reviews unusual occurrences in
radiation facilities. The committee has a legal advisor also.

The show cause notice was the first step taken by AERB
after Delhi Police traced the radiation exposure in Mayapuri
scrap market to the varsity`s chemistry department.

The university had admitted the violation and formed
an internal inquiry committee.

AERB`s April 29 notice had sought explanation about
the unauthorised disposal of radioactive Cobalt-60 source from
a lab as scrap in violation of safety rules. It also suspended
use of all the radioactive sources which the university holds.

The origin of the radioactive Cobalt-60 found in
Mayapuri scrap market was traced to the university`s chemistry
department, where it was lying unused for the last 25 years.

Advocate and Scientific Advisor to Bombay High Court
B B Singh said the offence committed by Delhi University was
cognisable and the punishment could extend up to five years in
jail with or without fine.
The Atomic Energy Act, 1962 has a special provision on
safety. In case of violation, AERB has the right to enforce
penalty like withdrawal of licences and punishment, he said.

According to a former radiation safety professional of
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, there has been no conviction so
far for radiation safety violation.

Earlier, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal had asked UGC to
frame a policy immediately on procurement, use and disposal
of hazardous substances by universities.

The HRD Ministry has also asked the UGC to direct
universities and colleges to follow the existing safety
guidelines of regulating agencies like AERB.


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