Experts fear presence of more radioactive sources in Mayapuri

Fearing presence of more radioactive sources in Delhi scrap yard Mayapuri, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) plan to carry out a multi-pronged approach survey in the area.

“But the scrap dealers and the people in the area have to cooperate with the authorities,” they said.

So far eight victims have suffered in this month after exposure of radioactive material in Mayapuri. All of them are still in a critical condition with dangerously low platelet counts and depleted bone marrows.

Besides this, thousands of people in the area now live in fear.

AERB officials said, so far the joint team of NDMA, AERB and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and Department of Atomic Energy crisis management has detected 11 sources of radioactive cobalt-60 from the Mayapuri scrap yard using ‘Tele-detectors’.

“We have to carry out more thorough searches at the scrap yard, shop by shop, through close inspection and this is our proposal. This requires co-operation from scrap dealers as well as the colony people,” a senior official of the team told PTI.

Local police officials are very cooperative but it was essential to rule out possibility of any source of radioactive material in the scrap yard for which the dealers and people have to cooperate with our team, he said.

Mayapuri is a junk metal capital of India and giant containers of scrap imported from various corners of the world arrive here without any check for radiation or any other lethal material at the Indian ports.

Radioactive cobalt—60 is a widely used radioisotope in industrial radiography, medical radiology, large food processing units and laboratories. The gamma rays emitted by it cause skin burns, cancer and death.

“The magnitude of risk to health depends on the quantity of cobalt—60, length of exposure, distance from the source and whether the substance is inhaled or ingested,” said a nuclear inspector of AERB adding that it takes nearly 5.27 years for it to lose radioactivity by even 50 per cent.

So far, the BARC, which has the waste disposal plant, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) or the NDMA had no control over such materials being shipped into India.

If India had a policy of checking the ports, the Mayapuri tragedy could have been averted, the officials said.

However, the Home Ministry along with NDMA—AERB—BARC—DAE team have drawn a plan to install scanners at all major ports (sea, air and land) and details of how to go about has been worked out with Electronic Corporation of India will be supplying the scanners.

Nearly 4000 tonnes of junk metal enter India every day.

As per the revised Radiological Protection Rule of 2004 (first Radiological rule was made in 1971) under the Indian Atomic Energy Act of 1962, the punitive action on the guilty will be more severe now onwards, the official said.

“We agree that it is an international problem, but at least India should not become a dumping ground for radioactive material which if falls in wrong hands could be a disaster for the people of India,” he cautioned.

The AERB—DAE team is already in the process of providing a number of dos and don’ts to the scrap dealers in the country and we will also provide them with some instruments enabling to carry out preliminary check up for any possible radioactivity and their men will also be trained for that, he said.

As there was no such incident earlier, even the hospital doctors were unaware of the radioactive injuries and how to go about with it. Asked whether DAE has plans to train doctors, its spokesperson S K. Malhotra said,”We have a programme to train doctors across the country in radiation medicine. This could be extended to the general doctors in the hospital too,” he said.

Asked about whether the scrap dealers need to obtain certificate from the exporting country , AERB official said, “Yes, they have to. But additionally India has to be vigilant at its ports which will avoid Mayapuri type incidents.”

While India has a strict vigilant on the radioactive material it supplies to its hospitals either from indigenous company (Board of Radiation and Isotope Technology) of DAE or imported. Inventory of every material is with the AERB and the hospitals have to inform the Board once the job of that radioactivity material is over and have to submit to the nuclear waste management department of BARC for disposal, AERB official said.

Last week, 200 radiographers had turned up to a meeting organised by AERB for all the members of industries who use radiography as part of the education and awareness programme.

Meanwhile, The Delhi Police, which is investigating the Mayapuri incident, seems to be Clueless as there is no sections in the IPC which could be applied in such cases. So it has registered a case under section 337 of IPC (endangering human life).

When asked about the exact origin of source of Cobalt—60 found in Mayapuri scrap, AERB official said, the radioactive material which are undergoing tests will be brought to BARC soon where the scientists could pin—point the source as there is a possibility of finding the name of the company.

Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 2:38:58 AM |

Next Story