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AERB for tightening of norms to import radioactive waste

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - 17:48

New Delhi: As more sources of radiation were
detected from junk shops here, country`s nuclear regulator
today demanded tightening of norms for import of radioactive
waste.

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has suggested
that scrap brought from abroad be checked at the port of entry
itself for radioactive sources which could enable its proper
handling.

"We have made suggestions that when the scrap is imported
it should be checked at the port itself before being allowed
any further," Om Pal Singh, Secretary, AERB said.

He said the atomic regulator has also suggested to
various scrap dealers` associations that they obtain a
certificate on the nature of junk they purchase from the
importer.

The AERB has been organising a series of workshops for
scrap dealers on handling of radioactive waste and reporting
it to relevant authorities.

Singh agreed that though there was a set procedure to
dispose of domestic radioactive waste, the authorities did
face problems while dealing with imported scrap.

"The small shopkeepers buy scrap from big dealers and at
times it is difficult to trace back its original source," he
said.

Singh said incidents of radiation leaks come to light
only when the scrap dealers try to melt the radioactive waste
in a foundry and in the process get exposed to it.

"Such incidents are reported periodically," he said.

The on-going investigations to identify the source of the
Cobalt-60 pieces found in Mayapuri junk market recently would
help police find out the route through which they came into
the metal scrap market, the official said.

Minister of State in the PMO Prithviraj Chavan had
said the government was planning some mechanism to ensure that
scrap dealers report to authorities about detection of
radioactive material found in the scrap.

Meet on SOPs to dispose of waste

A high-level meeting will soon
discuss Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to scan and
dispose of junk materials carrying radioactive waste.

The meeting will be attended by officials of the
Department of Atomic Energy, Prime Ministers Office, Home and
Health ministries besides representatives from various
intelligence agencies.

The move comes close on the heels of radioactive leaks
detected in an industrial area of West Delhi recently as
officials of various ministries expressed ignorance as to
whether the junk was checked for radioactive materials,
official sources said here today.

In the meeting, the SOPs would be finalised on checking
the junk, which is also imported at times from different
countries, before being sold off to scrap dealers.

Last week, panic was triggered in Mayapuri locality after
news of a radiation leak spread, with six persons falling ill
after coming in contact with a "mysterious shining object" in
a scrap shop, later identified as Cobalt-60.

As many as two dozen hospitals from across the country
which treat cancer patients using Cobalt pencils have informed
the Health Ministry about mechanism used by them in disposing
of machines. It includes forming of committees that oversee
dismantling process before being sold out as scrap.

The meeting, which was expected to be held later this
week, will study the mechanism adopted by the hospitals
besides working out a proposal on how to screen the imported
scrap at Indian ports itself.

At present, imported junks were screened for arms,
ammunition and drugs only.

Meanwhile, investigators continued to search for clues to
find the source of Cobalt-60 that had reached the industrial
market of the national capital as they were looking into the
possibility of whether the nuclear material found its way to
other parts of the country.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - 17:48

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