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Atomic Board slaps show-cause on DU for radiation exposure

Last Updated: Thursday, April 29, 2010 - 21:35

Mumbai/New Delhi: Taking a serious view, the
Atomic Energy Regulatory Board on Thursday slapped a notice on Delhi University to explain how safety rules were violated after the
radiation exposure in a Delhi scrap market was traced to its
Chemistry department.

Delhi University has been given two times to respond to
the show-cause notice.

Vice-Chancellor Prof Deepak Pental in the meantime said
the university took "moral responsibility and was very
"apologetic" for what happened and the damages caused.

Panic had gripped Mayapuri in the first week of April
when 11 people were admitted to hospitals after they were
exposed to radiation in a scrap market. A worker in the scrap
shop from where the Cobalt 60 was discovered had also died due
to exposure to radiation whose origin was a mystery for days.

"We have given two weeks time to the university to
provide its explanation," Chairman, AERB S S Bajaj said in

The show cause notice is a first step taken by AERB after
the Delhi Police yesterday said it had traced the origin of
the radioactive Cobalt-60 found in Delhi`s Mayapuri scrap
market to a laboratory in Delhi University`s Chemistry
Department, where it was lying unused for the last 25 years.

"We have issued a show cause notice to explain about the
unauthorised disposal of radioactive cobalt 60 source from one
of its labs as scrap thus violating the safe disposal of
radioactive waste rules and radiation protection rules," Bajaj

"We are also suspending permission to use all the
radioactive sources which the university holds," he said.

"Once we get a reply from the University in two weeks,
we will take the next step of punishment under the Atomic
Energy Act," he said.

AERB could find that the University was given
authorisation for the gamma cell by the then Directorate of
Radiation Protection in January 1970 of the Department of
Atomic Energy, he said.

"Negligence was there. Radioactive materials should be
disposed off in controlled condition. Strict guidelines have
been formulated by Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. It appears
DU has not followed it," a senior Delhi police official said.

Pental admitted there had been "negligence" as the
radioactive substance found its way out of the university`s
Chemistry Department to the scrap market.

"We have to go into it and inquire into this--in a
very systematic method to find out where was the negligence,
when the source was brought, with whose permission the source
was bought and who was using it", he said in New Delhi.

According to a former Radiation Safety professional of
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, there has been no conviction so
far over radiation safety violation. The Delhi incident is
purely a case amounting to culpable homicide to be charged
under criminal proceedings, he said.

AERB has so far been sending notices to those who are
violating the Atomic Energy Act and at the most withdrawing
their licences or suspending the licences till the agencies
complied with safety norms.


First Published: Thursday, April 29, 2010 - 21:35

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