Experts from the Department of Atomic Energy, assisted by Greenpeace activists, on Sunday carried out decontamination operations at the Mayapuri market in West Delhi following reports of the presence of high levels of radiation in the scrap there.

This exercise follows a meeting of the experts with leading traders and shopkeepers of the scrap market on Saturday evening. Greenpeace had claimed that there were at least eight hot spots where radiation levels were much higher than normal.

A person who stands continuously for five days about a metre away from a hot spot is likely to receive the maximum allowed dose of radiation, says Jan Vande Putte, a Greenpeace radiation safety expert. At a distance of 10 cm, a person needs to stand only for two hours for the maximum dose.

According to experts, there were at least two places in the market where attempts were made to break parts of the gamma irradiator containing Cobalt-60 that was auctioned as scrap by the Delhi University Chemistry Department two months ago. Tiny particles of radioactive material got mixed with the soil and nuclear experts have been engaged in clearing the area of the contaminated stuff, DAE officials said.

The decontamination procedure comes more than 36 hours after Greenpeace found dangerous levels of radiation and informed Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre officials.

It was a matter of concern that six hot spots remained despite the AERB having said the area was safe, the Greenpeace team said.

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