AERB for tightening of norms to import radioactive waste
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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.


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

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