UN atomic body seeks more information about DU incident

The UN atomic watchdog sought more information from India about mishandling of radioactive material by Delhi University Saturday as the country`s nuclear regulator conducted inspections at the varsity campus.

New Delhi: The UN atomic watchdog sought
more information from India about mishandling of radioactive
material by Delhi University Saturday as the country`s nuclear
regulator conducted inspections at the varsity campus.

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), country`s
apex radiation safety regulator, inspected the University`s
radioactive material storage room after it reported seepage of
rainwater in it.

The Delhi University is in the eye of a storm after it
came to light that Cobalt-60, which led to radiation exposure
claiming one life in Mayapuri, originated from the varsity
which auctioned a Gamma Irradiator to a scrap dealer.

International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman Marc
Vridricaire said in Vienna that the watchdog had become aware
"of the possibility of a serious radiation emergency at
Mayapuri in New Delhi" via media reports on April 9.

As a result, the IAEA`s Incident and Emergency Centre
"has contacted India`s Department of Atomic Energy to request
information" and offer help," Vridricaire said.

The IAEA`s Incident and Emergency Centre was
"continuing to seek further information on this event,"
Vridicaire said. "And the IAEA stands ready to assist Indian
authorities upon request," the official added.

In New Delhi, Delhi University and the AERB rejected
claims that 20 kg of uranium was "dumped" inside the campus a
few years back and ruled out fears about safety of radioactive
materials in its laboratories.

Varsity Vice Chancellor Deepak Pental termed it as
wrong that 20 kg of uranium was buried in the campus as
claimed by a terminated professor. "This is wrong. If 20 kg of
uranium was dumped somewhere in the campus, it would not have
been possible for us to sit here," he told reporters.

Pental alleged that Prof Ramesh Chandra, who made
these allegations, "could have done this to settle personal
score as he has been terminated from the service for financial

AERB scientist Dr Raju Kumar said that there was no
evidence about radioactive material being dumped inside the
campus. He, however, said "there were certain radioactive
materials which did not have proper labelling and they have
been taken care of."

The experts of AERB inspected the Physics Department
premises after water was found inside a pit where radioactive
materials were stored.

"There were minor discrepancies in the pit. But there
is nothing to fear from the security point of view. We have
fixed the problem," Raju Kumar of AERB told reporters after
the four-hour-long examination.

"The officials inspected the Source Room where the
radioactive materials are being kept. The pit where the
sources are kept is filled with rain water for the past few
days," a senior official said.

A four-member team of AERB launched a probe into
lapses by DU in auctioning of radioactive material. The team
is also looking for radioactive pencils which reportedly went

Pental said a team of AERB is currently investigating
the laboratories and has not found any unsafe source of
radioactive material.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has
suggested screening of people residing or visiting Mayapuri
scrap yard, which was affected by radiation contamination, and
continuation of the process of finding more sources of
radioactivity in the area.

"Screening of the people around the area where
radioactive Cobalt 60 was found is necessary to rule out the
possibility of anyone else being exposed," a senior member of
the NDMA told a news agency.

NDMA also recommended scanning of all the shops in the
scrapyard of Mayapuri to find out any remaining sources of
cobalt 60, he said.

The scrap dealers, who were very closely exposed to
the radiation source, suffered Acute Radiation Syndrome and
one of them died and two more are very critical.

According to Atomic Energy Regulatory Board officials,
the screening of scrap shops in Mayapuri is being carried out
by India`s Radiation Emergency Response system (RERS)under the leadership of Dr Pradeep Kumar with the help of Delhi Police using portable detectors, including survey meters and also teledetectors.


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