Radiation leak: Did Cobalt-60 come from abroad?

New Delhi: As investigators groped for clues to find the source of Cobalt-60 that created panic in West Delhi, the possibility of the nuclear material being part of some imported industrial waste is not being ruled out.

Scientists have removed the radioactive isotope from a scrap dealer's shop in an industrial area in Mayapuri and shifted it to Narora Atomic power plant in Uttar Pradesh for detailed analysis, official sources said today.

Security agencies are also looking into the possibility of whether the nuclear material found its way to other parts of the country.

The material was packed properly with all precautions and taken to Narora plant at Bulandshahr for a detailed study of the scrap and try and ascertain its source.

Security agencies carried out raids in various parts of the areas adjoining the national capital in this connection.

The scientists who examined the scrap were of the opinion that the Cobalt-60 was not available in the country in a form that was found in Mayapuri, sources said. There was also a possibility that it could have been a part of the scrap that may have landed at Indian ports from abroad, they said.

Initial investigations showed that the scrap dealer Deepak Jain used to purchase scrap from wholesale dealers in Faridabad and Gurgaon with a countrywide network. It is for this reason that investigators want to rule out the possibility of any radioactive material finding its way to other parts of the country

Jain, who is among the five people affected by the radiation exposure, is in a critical condition at a private hospital here and may have to under go bone-marrow transplant.

Cobalt-60 among other things is used for radiography to treat cancer patients.

Panic triggered in the Mayapuri locality last week following the radiation leak and five persons fell ill after coming in contact with a "mysterious shining object" in a scrap shop.

Co-60 is a hard, lustrous and grey metal. Cobalt-based colours and pigments have been used since ancient times for jewellery and paints, and miners have long used the name kobold ore for some minerals.

Besides radiography, it is also used to measure thickness in nucleonic gauges and in medical applications.