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AERB's directive to Delhi University on radiation sources

Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has asked the Delhi University to suspend all activities involving the use of radiation sources.

The directive follows the tracing of a radioactive material that caused the death of a person of a scrap shop and injuries to several others at Mayapuri here to the university's Chemistry Department.

The AERB, whose mission is to ensure that the use of nuclear energy does not have an “unacceptable impact on the health of workers and the members of the public and on the environment,” has issued a show-cause notice to the university, asking it to explain the violations within two weeks.

The board said on its website that the radioactive material (Cobalt-60) originated from an old gamma cell model 220 that was made by Atomic Energy Canada Limited with decayed Cobalt-60 sources.

The AERB said the incident was caused by the unauthorised disposal of the gamma cell by the university as scrap, in violation of the Atomic Energy (Safe Disposal of Radioactive Waste) Rules and Atomic Energy (Radiation Protection) Rules.

Three-member varsity panel to probe incident

A three-member committee will be constituted to investigate how harmful radioactive substances were allowed to leave Delhi University's Chemistry Department, Vice-Chancellor Deepak Pental said here on Thursday.

Earlier this month, exposure to the radioactive material led to the death of a scrap dealer in West Delhi. Eight others are undergoing treatment after they were exposed to the same material.

The committee will consist of former DU professor S.C. Pancholi of the Nuclear Science Centre, Dwarkanath of the Defence Research and Development Organisation's (DRDO) Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences, and N.C. Goomer of the Board of Radiation and Isotope Technology.

Professor Pental said the university took moral responsibility for the incident and said that in case compensation was to be paid, the university community would contribute.

There had been a miscalculation about the active life of the radioactive material, Professor Pental said, adding that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board has asked for information on the incident.

The source of the radioactive material found in a scrap market in Mayapuri earlier this month was traced to a gamma irradiator used in the university's Chemistry Department.

The irradiator was used for conducting experiments on analysing the effect of gamma rays on chemicals, and had been purchased from Atomic Energy Canada Limited in 1970 for use in experiments by students of the department.

However, the material had not been used since 1985 and was lying unused in a room. It was finally auctioned by the university authorities on February 26.

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