Coming under attack in the Lok Sabha on the radiation accident at the Mayapuri scrap market here last month, the government on Friday admitted that the Delhi University had violated rules by selling scrap containing radioactive material, but promised to take action against the culprits.Minister of State in the Department of Atomic Energy Prithiviraj Chavan asserted that all the 19 nuclear power plants in the country were completely safe. Mechanisms would be strengthened in atomic research and medical use as “some lessons have been learnt” from the Delhi accident in which one person died.

Mr. Chavan said the police had upgraded the first information report (FIR) after the death of one person and were looking at the “criminal negligence” part in the radiation caused by Cobalt-60.

Replying to the calling attention notice by Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) and others, Mr. Chavan argued for need to put in place a law on fixing compensation for accidents involving radioactive leakages.

Earlier, Mr. Dasgupta, Sumitra Mahajan (BJP) and B. Mahtab and Arjun Charan Sethi (both BJD) demanded that the university authorities be brought to book on the charge of criminal negligence. For, being “highly educated,” they ought to know the repercussions of auctioning the Gamma Cell as scrap, they said.

“A mistake was made by [Delhi] University in not adhering” to rules and its own undertaking to the atomic energy authorities that the device, used by its Chemistry Department, would not be re-sold, Mr. Chavan said. The university authorities did not follow the rules and the responsibility would be fixed. “No guilty person will be spared, I assure you,” Mr. Chavan said.

Radioactive leakage occurred when the scrap, which originated from the Chemistry Department, was being cut at a shop of a scrap dealer in Mayapuri.

The Minister said all the 112 cobalt slugs related to the accident were identified and sent to the Narora plant for safe-keeping.

Scrap import

Scrap import would now be checked for the presence of any radioactive material. Equipment to scan scrap were being deployed at various entry points. “We are conscious of the need to prevent unauthorised import of radioactive material,” he said.

The radiation incident had nothing to do with any of the Department of Atomic Energy facilities or activities. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) had a complete inventory of all radioactive sources. There were 10,000 sources with about 3,000 institutions and licences were given to users who were “very responsible.”

“We need to have a law for compensation in such cases which should deal with insurance, compensation and related issues,” he said.

Delhi University was served a show-cause notice by the AERB, asking it to suspend all activities involving the use of radiation sources, he added.