The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board is contemplating handing down severe punishment to Delhi University’s Chemistry Department for allegedly failing to follow safety rules leading to radiation leak in a Delhi scrap market.

After the Delhi Police 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, AERB is also trying to find whether the Canadian irradiator of the department was registered with Department of Atomic Energy.

“We are tracing the registration of the Canadian irradiator and also contemplating severe punishment under the Indian Atomic Energy Act for the Chemistry Department as it is responsible for severe exposure of gamma rays to the public in Mayapuri which even left one person dead,” Chairman, AERB S.S. Bajaj told PTI.

“We will come to know today about the registration of the instrument as the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre is also looking into its records,” Bajaj said.

Delhi’s Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) Sharad Aggarwal said yesterday that the university bought the irradiator in question from the Atomic Energy Canada Limited in 1970 for use in experiments by students. It was not used since 1985.

The university authorities auctioned it on February 26 this year, and it passed through different hands before reaching the scrap market in Mayapuri.

The owner of the scrap shop Deepak Jain and several workers in Mayapuri market, were hospitalised earlier this month after being exposed to radioactive substances. One of the victims, Rajender, died on Monday.

Bajaj said that although scrap dealers do not come under the purview of AERB, “We will be providing them with few instruments for monitoring any radiation material in their scrap material. We will also train their persons how to use the monitors and report to the regulatory authorities immediately as the industry is located in thickly populated areas.”

The entire incident was reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency under Incident Reporting System (IRS) and Illicit Trafficking Data Base (ITDB) of the agency, he said.

Regulating use of radiation instruments in health sector and other industries are a great challenge to AERB as they are large in number and widespread. “The challenge is of numbers,” he said.

“Of course most of the users of radioactive instruments both in industry and health sector are responsible and interact with AERB and as well as with BARC and dispose the used ones through the waste management division of BARC.

But we are worried about irresponsible owners,” he said.