Negligence led to radiation

Negligence led to radiation

The AERB’s strong stand came in the wake of disclosures made by the Delhi Police, which is investigating the case, the first of its kind in the country, that the university’s chemistry department was the source of the radiocative material. It will issue a show-cause notice to the authorities on why action should not be taken against it for violation of safety rules and standards.

AERB, in its show-cause notice, also suspended the permission given to DU in 1970 to use radioactive material. The notice asked DU to explain how the Cobalt-60 was disposed off in an unauthorised manner from one of its laboratories.

Delhi Police had said on Wednesday that the Cobalt-60 radiation occurred when scrap dealers on April 8 removed a lead covering of a Gamma Irradiator that the university had auctioned off in February.

The cell had been lying unused for over 25 years because nobody knew how to operate it, Delhi Police Deputy Commissioner Sharad Aggarwal said.

The irradiator was dismantled on April 8, and the subsequent death and illnesses of the workers created panic through the western New Delhi neighbourhood where the scrap yard is located.

The workers thought the cell was junk and had no idea they were cutting into a container with radioactive contents. Incidentally, AERB search teams have found Cobalt-60 in several scrap shops in the area, creating panic in the whole market.
AERB Chairman S S Bajaj said in Mumbai that the university has been given two weeks to furnish its explanation to the show-cause notice. Bajaj said AERB’s next action would come after receiving a reply from DU.

AERB’s action came even as DU Vice-Chancellor Deepak Pental said the university took “moral responsibility” for what had happened, and that it was “very apologetic” about it. In all, 11 people had been admitted to various hospitals as victims of radiation exposure, of whom one died on Monday.

Pental admitted that there had been negligence on the part of the university in the way the material had been disposed of. “We have to go into it and inquire into this in a very systematic method to find out where was the negligence, when the source was brought, with whose permission the source was bought and who was using it,” he said.
“The university would compensate the victims, though no amount can compensate for the damage. Our university has a strong desire that this be investigated and recorded,” Pental said.

Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan told the Rajya Sabha on Thursday that experts from AERB, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, other units of Department of Atomic Energy, National Disaster Management Authority and National Disaster Response Force had surveyed the Mayapuri area and recovered all the exposed radiation sources. “Further investigations are underway,” the minister said.

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