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Radioactive steel components discovered in France & Sweden

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, October 31, 2008 | 11:31 AM

Radioactive steel components discovered in Sweden
23 Oct 08 08:11 CET

Swedish officials discovered small traces of radioactivity on steel items imported from India and the same substance was found on Indian-made elevator buttons in France, officials said Wednesday.

The levels of Cobalt 60, a radioactive form of the metal, were considered harmless and the steel components have not been recalled, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) told AFP.

"Dutch customs discovered that a shipment of industrial flanges from India to Sweden showed traces of Cobalt 60," SSM spokesman Mattias Sköld said.

That find led to the discovery that a similar shipment had been sent several weeks earlier from India and delivered to three companies at four sites in western, southern and central Sweden.

Sköld did not disclose the names of the companies that had received the contaminated parts, but said they were oil and heating groups.

"Inspections were carried out and it was found that the level (of Cobalt 60) found in these products was very low and wasn't dangerous," Sköld said.

The exact number of contaminated flanges was not known, he said. However, at one company, nine of 1,200 flanges were found to be contaminated with Cobalt 60.

On Wednesday, French elevator maker Otis said it would remove the buttons from hundreds of lifts it has installed after faint traces of Cobalt 60 were found in the Indian-made buttons.

Sköld said SSM had contacted France over the Swedish discovery.

"It seemed important to contact France to inform them of the contaminated steel flanges which also came from India," he said.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Going down! French engineers hunt radioactive elevator buttons
Paris, France (AFP) Oct 22, 2008
A French lift-maker scrambled Wednesday to remove buttons from hundreds of elevators after the nuclear safety authority said Indian-imported materials used in them were radioactive.

Otis planned to remove the buttons from "500 to 600 lifts out of the 2,500 that Otis has installed, modernised or repaired between August 21 and October 9 even if there is no danger for users," said a company spokesman.

The firm, a French subsidiary of the US group of the same name, also said it had isolated thousands of contaminated buttons in three production sites and would destroy them under the control of the country's nuclear waste authority. Employees of the sites were asked not to come to work on October 10, after the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) told Otis there were traces of radioactive Cobalt 60 in Indian-made buttons it had received, the company said.

Otis' announcements came after the ASN said Tuesday that 20 French workers who had handled buttons used in lifts had been exposed to to excessive levels of radiation.

The authority classed the incident at a factory of the Mafelec firm in the east-central town of Chimilin at level two on the seven-level International Nuclear Event Scale.

It said that of 30 workers exposed, 20 had been exposed to doses of between one mSv (milli-Sievert) and three mSv. The maximum permitted dose for workers in the non-nuclear sector is one mSv, said the ASN.

But France's institute of radioprotection (IRSN) said the health risk for the Mafelec workers was "extremely low."

The incident in the factory belonging to Mafelec, which delivers the buttons to Otis, happened in early October, said the Nuclear Safety Authority.

The Mafelec workers were using materials that came from an Indian supplier, it said. Faint traces of Cobalt 60, a radioactive form of the metal cobalt, were found in the buttons.

The ASN said it believed that several Indian companies had exported products contaminated with Cobalt 60 to a number of countries.

It named them as Bunts, Laxmi, SKM Steels, Vipras Castings, and Pradeep Metals, and said it was in contact with Indian authorities "in order to find out the result of inspections being carried out on these sites."

Officials here said the radioactivity in the buttons was probably due to the fact that the metals used to make them were from contaminated recycled materials.

Swedish officials meanwhile said Monday that steel items imported from India showing faint traces of radioactivity had been found in Sweden.

The levels of Cobalt 60 in the steel were considered harmless and the steel components have not been recalled, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) told AFP.

"Dutch customs discovered that a shipment of industrial flanges from India to Sweden showed traces of Cobalt 60," a spokesman said.

That find led to the discovery that a similar shipment had been sent several weeks earlier from India and delivered to three companies at four sites in Sweden.

Skoeld said SSM had contacted France over the Swedish discovery.

"It seemed important to contact France to inform them of the contaminated steel flanges which also came from India," he said.
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