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India probing radioactive steel lift button exports

Written By Gopal Krishna on Monday, October 27, 2008 | 2:52 AM

There is a crash of global scarp levels, offers are coming at lower levels and are reported in a wide range of USD 280 to USD 320 per tonne.

Secondary producers have a combined output of 7 million tonnes a year. Around 1.6 million tonnes of secondary steel is exported from India. Secondary manufacturers import around one million tonnes and source another 0.6 million tonnes from domestic manufacturers.

Last year, India imported 6 million tonnes as it did not have the capacity to meet demand. This year India will import 8 million tonnes because demand is growing definitely much faster than supply. According to National Steel Policy, it is estimated to touch 110 million tonnes by 2011-12.

Customs duty on steel melting scrap has been reduced from 5 per cent to nil.

The difference between the landed cost of import and domestic prices now stands at Rs 13,000 to Rs 15,000 per tonne of steel.

With imports becoming cheaper following falling global steel prices, secondary producers are opting for imports and domestic hot rolled steel makers are piling up inventories.

National Steel Policy calls for modernisation of re-rolling mills but so far it has not happened. It is fact for instance that in Kerela the functioning of 37 re-rolling steel mills in Palakkad has created health problems.

Verification of secondary steel imports for India is required to be done to ensure conformity with the requirements of the Directorate General of Foreign Trade with the
objective of checking material quality, chemical analysis, visual inspection, thickness and width of material etc.

Import of seconds/defectives of steel items is allowed only through customs sea port at Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. Import consignments are required to be shall be accompanied by a pre shipment certificate regarding description of material.

Last year, the Ministry of Commerce abandoned its decision to have a registration scheme for overseas suppliers of scrap as applicable in China.

As per the EXIM Policy 2002-2007, import of second hand goods is restricted and can be imported only with the permission of the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT). The DGFT had announced a plan in March 2006 to introduce a registration system covering imports of unshredded ferrous and non-ferrous scrap. This was proposed in the wake of explosions and loss of life linked to the presence of munitions in consignments arriving at Indian ports. Further, DGFT had announced a plan similar to that implemented in China which would have required applicants to demonstrate their financial and business standing.

But with the proposed amendment from Ministry of Environment, hazardous waste gets classified as hazardous material, and it would fall in the category of second hand materials. The DGFT will be able to allow even hazardous waste since as per the new notification a waste would be deemed as non-waste. In this way toxic waste will reincarnate itself as a reusable or recyclable product.

When the DGFT had proposed its registration scheme covering imports of scrap, the US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries and the Indian scarp steel industry had objected. Ikbal Nathani of the Nathani Group of Companies, India says, "Exporters should make sure we don't repeat the mistakes of the past. We should self-regulate to ensure no explosive materials are shipped."

The DGFT appears to have caved in to their pressure and instead suggested self-regulation to the industry, according to information received from the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) meeting in Warsaw, Poland in October 2007. BIR is the international trade federation representing the world�s recycling industry, covering in particular ferrous and non-ferrous metals etc.

The position of the Ministry of Commerce (the DGFT) is, in effect, in complete contrast to the revised EU Waste Shipment Regulations introduced in July 2007, to which all EU member nations need to comply. The new EU rules now require an tracking document to accompany shipments of non-hazardous materials designated as �waste�, including recyclables. But the scrap industry feels that the complexity of information required by the new EU rules was "totally illogical", complaining that it did not offer clear environment benefit.


India probing radioactive lift button exports

Oct 23, 2008
NEW DELHI (AFP) — India's atomic safety body said Thursday that radioactive scrap metal which found its way into buttons installed into lifts in France had been traced back to a western Indian foundry.

At least four Indian firms were involved in the manufacture of the components, an official said, but it was still unclear where the contaminated scrap originated.

"We are tracking back the whole chain," Satya Pal Agarwal, head of the radiological safety division of India's Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, told AFP.

"We are taking steps in each place. Exporters have been advised to buy monitors to check their materials before exporting."

France's Mafelec firm delivered thousands of lift buttons to Otis, a subsidiary of the US elevator company, which installed them in at least 500 lifts in the country over the summer.

Otis has said it is now in the process of removing the buttons, after France's Nuclear Safety Authority announced Tuesday that 20 workers who handled the lift buttons had been exposed to excessive levels of radiation.

The French nuclear safety agency has said the lift buttons contained traces of radioactive Cobalt 60.

Swedish officials also said they had found faint traces of radioactivity in steel items imported from India.

The components used by Mafelec were supplied by two Indian firms -- Bunts and Laxmi Electronics -- which purchase inputs from SKM Steels which in turn worked with a foundry called Vipras Casting, Agarwal said.

"The foundries must monitor their input material for any radioactive contamination before smelting," said Agarwal. "Today it happened with Vipras, tomorrow it can happen with someone else."

But Vipras, which says it has purchased radioactivity detection equipment since the incident came to light, told AFP that in this particular case SKM Steels had provided it the steel scrap to convert into bars.

SKM Steels' vice president Girish Chaudhary, who deals with exports, denied that.

"We are not the source of the scrap," said Chaudhary. "We have purchased it from Vipras."

So far, India has not been able to ascertain the source of the contaminated scrap, with hundreds of scrap dealers importing from European countries and the United States, among others.

"We are still completing the investigation then we will be able to tell," said Agarwal.

Demand for scrap has soared because of a boom in construction and manufacturing in India, which imports about 3.1 million tonnes of it a year, but its regulation and inspection regime is often lax.

Four years ago, 10 workers died in a blast at a steel factory while smelting iron scrap from Iran that contained live ammunition.
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