Radioactive leakage in Delhi figures in Lok Sabha
New Delhi, Apr 19 (PTI) An incident of radioactive leakage in a west Delhi area was today raised in the Lok Sabha by some members who said it was a wake-up call for the government to put in place a mechanism to prevent and tackle such disasters involving chemicals and nuclear material.
Raising the issue related to Mayapuri incident, B Mahtab said the source of the scrap from which radioactive chemicals leaked should be found as he feared that India was being made a dumping ground for such "dangerous waste".
Five persons were exposed to Cobalt-60 radiation in Mayapuri over a week ago when they were cutting some pieces of scrap.
"We have no mechanism or roadmap to deal with such leakages despite India being on the radar of terrorists who want to use radioactive material against it," he said demanding stringent measures to check incoming scrap.
AERB report fails to trace cobalt-60 source
NEW DELHI: The radioactive waste, identified as cobalt-60, found in the Mayapuri scrap market last week could have come from more than one source, claims the report submitted by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board to Delhi Police.
The report, however, did not specify where the radioactive waste might have come from, saying only that it could be industrial or hospital waste which could have come from outside India.
On April 9, AERB had collected eight samples of cobalt-60 after reports of five persons admitted to hospital because of radiation exposure began to filter out. Later, three new samples, which made two people sick, were collected and sent to Narora Atomic Research Centre by AERB.
The report prepared by scientists from AERB and BARC claims the cobalt-60 seized from the Mayapuri junkyard is of different intensities, suggesting there might be more than one point of origin.
DCP (west) Sharad Agarwal said, "We have received the AERB report and it is being examined. The origin of the radioactive waste is not clear. Scientists have identified the material as cobalt-60. Further investigations are in progress." The cops added that they are talking to shopowners at the junkyard to try and trace the origin of the radioactive waste.
"It's still not clear where the scrap came from. Other radioactive waste might also have made its way into the junkyard. We have taken the statements of seven persons who have fallen ill due to radiation exposure but so far they have not been able to tell us exactly where the scrap came from. We are waiting for Deepak Jain to make a statement, but so far the doctors have not declared him fit," added a police officer.
Dealers at the market said they buy scrap from different sources, which is why it is very difficult for them to identify where the radioactive waste might have come from. "We also buy scrap from abroad and sometimes a middle man is involved. There are online auctions. It is difficult to say from where Jain made the purchase," said Pramod Jain, a relative and a scrap dealer at the Mayapuri scrap market.
Meanwhile, police said they have prepared a list of all the dealers at the scrap market who will be questioned about the origin of the scrap they are procuring. The owner of the shop where cobalt-60 was discovered on April 12, Giriraj Gupta, was also questioned by the cops. The market, officials said, has been declared free of any radiation; but the two shops run by Deepak Jain and the shop where cobalt-60 was found on April 5 have been sealed.
11 radioactive sources found so far in Delhi steel scrap market
Atomic Energy Regulatory Board said that nuclear experts have scanned hundreds of shops in a west Delhi scrap market but have not found any new radioactive source after 11 sources of radiation were detected in the Mayapuri scrap market recently where Cobalt-60 was recovered, injuring 11 persons including three scrap dealers.
However, scientists were yet to pinpoint whether the origin of radioactive material was from domestic or imported scrap.
The radioactive sources recovered from Mayapuri were in the form of Cobalt 60 pins which experts have been saying are not produced domestically.
A senior AERB official said the radioactive material recovered from Mayapuri is being examined in a remotely handled facility at the Narora Atomic Power Station in western Uttar Pradesh.
The official said they are also planning to conduct a thorough scanning of the market before declaring it a safe zone.
Another official said that “We have already scanned all the shops in the market. It is somewhere between 600 and 800.”
The government has asked all 12 state-owned major ports to go for advanced radioactive material detectors fearing lack of it could result in shipment of hazardous materials into the country.
“The Shipping Ministry has issued letters to all major ports to immediately assess the requirement for the number of radioactive material detectors at each major port and get it installed. Six major ports are likely to be equipped with it in six months, while the remaining will have it by March, 2012,” a senior Shipping Ministry official told PTI.
“Unfortunately, barring two scanners at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), all ports lack scanners, which makes it extremely difficult to check the container traffic. The Home Ministry had also reviewed the situation, while we are in touch with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre too,” the official said.
All ports have been asked to make budgetary provisions for procuring the radiation detectors. The ministry has asked Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL) to make a demonstration of the equipment soon, the official said.
A prototype of the gadget has already been installed at the Nava Sheva port in Mumbai and once installed, the detectors will play a pivotal role in security, as they will scan cargo stacked within steel containers.
Asked about the cost of the gadgets, the official said a primary detector can cost anything between Rs 40 lakh and Rs 50 lakh, adding that apart from these, there were handheld secondary and tertiary gadgets for radiation detection.
The total cost of installing the detectors, he said, would be estimated after the assessment by ports and it was likely to be done soon. ECIL was about to make a presentation of its own before the ministry soon, he added.
A lot of container traffic, sources said, goes unexamined at major ports —— Mumbai, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Kolkata (with Haldia), Chennai, Visakhapatanam, Cochin, Paradip, New Mangalore, Marmagao, Ennore, Tuticorin and Kandla.
These ports handled 560.68 million tonnes of cargo, including 102 MT of iron ore, in just concluded 2009—10.
The cargo handled in 2008—09 was 530.35 MT.