Radiation leak: BARC recovers all missing cobalt pencils

Recovered stuff will continue to remain in the safe custody of DAE

Radiation leak: BARC recovers all missing cobalt pencils

New Delhi: Almost a month after a deadly radiation leak was detected in Mayapuri scrap yard in west Delhi, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) on Wednesday confirmed that there is no more missing radioactive material.
The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has identified and accounted for all the radioactive sources originally present in the gamma cell of Delhi University . These sources would continue to remain in the safe custody of DAE, said an official.
Interestingly, records kept at the AERB and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre could not offer much help to the investigating team. Then they contacted the supplier, Atomic Energy Canada Ltd, which responded with all details within a couple of hours.
The source search, identification and recovery operation of the Mayapuri scrap to make it free from “orphan sources” (unaccounted sources to Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) began on April 7.

There were 7 pencils, each containing 16 Cobalt-60 slugs. Each slug had a dimension of one inch by 0.25 inch. In total there were 112 slugs, all of which have now been accounted for.

“In one pencil, four slugs were intact and 12 were broken at the scrap yard, which caused radioactivity,” a DAE official told Deccan Herald.
“Many of these pieces were hidden in the scrap among nuts and bolts and we had a tough time tracing the sources,” the source added.
Records related to the purchase of the gamma irradiator machine in 1968, should have been with the Directorate of Radio Protection at BARC, which was the nodal approval authority before AERB.

After the regulator was created in 1983, all DRP documents were handed over to the AERB. But it appears that DU papers for some reasons are missing from the AERB archives because of which the old machine was never on the AERB scanner. The radioactive materials were transported to Narora Atomic Power Station (NAPS), near Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh for safe and secure storage. Detailed inspections of the recovered materials were carried out at NAPS site to establish their identity.
The operation was carried out by Emergency response teams of BARC, Nuclear Power Corporation and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board experts who have experience in nuclear reactor operations.

Support was provided by National Disaster Response force of National Disaster Management authority and Mayapuri police teams.
Unsafe handling of the radioactive material led to hospitalisation of eight persons including the owner of the scrap shop where the DU gamma irradiator machine had finally landed up. One of them died and condition of several others are still critical.
DHNS & Agencies

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