(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 02, 2010
Hot Steel and a Cold Govt:
Mayapuri Radioactive Exposure
near fatal radiation
exposure in the Mayapuri scrap has led to hospitalisation of 11 people.
cause has now been identified as radioactive cobalt 60 sources that
up in the scrap. What neither the Atomic Energy Commission nor the
has disclosed is that it is not the first time that we have found
cobalt 60 in metal scrap. Almost two years back,
The Atomic Energy Commission, the keeper of the nation's nuclear safety has virtually washed its hands off the affair, claiming that the radiation material appears to have originated from imported scrap and AEC had no responsibility regarding this. This is what Prithviraj Chavan has also echoed in the parliament. What this shows is the utter callousness with which the government authorities conduct their nuclear affairs. To add gratuitous insult to radiation injury, Prithviraj Chavan tried to relate it to the Nuclear Liability Bill pending in the parliament � apparently this bill has provisions relating to radiation damage from scrap. The truth is that the Nuclear Liability Bill covers only nuclear reactors, and the last we know, there are none in Mayapuri!
Now it transpires that the radioactive material originated from the Delhi University Chemistry Department, which had disposed of as scrap a gamma radiation equipment with an active source of cobalt 60. Therefore, this falls squarely within Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) /AEC's jurisdiction, as they are supposed to track all radioactive sources in the country.
story of radioactive
scrap is not new. In August 2008, a container from
Atomic Energy Commission
and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has total responsibility
country for all such matters. Satya Pal
Agarwal, head of the radiological safety division of
issue is clear.
Radioactive material is mixed up in scrap � either imported or local --
finding its way into steel making. Obviously, iron and steel scrap is
FOR PEOPLE�S LIVES
In today's day and age, peoples lives are assumed to have less importance than the value of our exports. Obviously, if the steel used in engineering industry gets contaminated, this poses a huge risk for our 23 billion dollar exports in this sector. If not for the health of its people, at least for protecting its industry and its exports, we would have expected the Indian government to carry out an aggressive program with respect to import of suspect iron and steel scrap. Yet, after almost two years, we find that the scanners and radiation measuring instruments to monitor imported scrap is yet to be functional in our ports. The government has passed the buck to the steel makers telling them that they must check for radioactive contamination of all their inputs.
a statement to the
press, Dr S Banerjee, chairman of the
Commission said , "Whatever happened in
As Dr Gopalkrishnan points out (http://news.rediff.com/column/2010/apr/22/delhi-radiation-case-aec-aerb-also-culpable.htm), the Act's sections 16 and 17 makes clear that monitoring all such possible radioactive substances is a part of AEC's duties. Subsequently, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board was set up in 1983 and this part of the mandate was transferred to AERB. Dr Gopalkrishnan points out, �One of the responsibilities legally assigned to the AERB through its founding notification is to review operational experience in the light of the radiological safety criteria recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other similar international bodies, adapt them to suit Indian conditions, and thereby evolve major safety policies.
This aspect is especially relevant in dealing with issues of missing and misplaced powerful radioactive sources, a subject in which IAEA has enormous experience and data bases. IAEA has also, over the years, developed procedures for preventive and corrective action, in consultation with various countries. After evolving appropriate national policies based on this world experience, the AERB is to implement them and maintain a high degree of nuclear safety and security in the country�.
Chairman cannot wish away the statutory obligations that the Act
AEC. In fact, the radioactive steel cases in
One of the advantage of radioactive contamination for post mortem purposes is that it does leave a physical trace. The people are entitled to ask what happened last time when AEC/AERB traced the path of radioactive scrap going into steel plants? Is it the same source that caused the problem last time that is responsible now also for the Mayapuri incident or is it a new source? Where did the scrap originate last time and what are the steps that AEC/AERB took then? None of these questions have been answered and given AEC/AERB's record of opaque functioning and stonewalling all questions of safety, none may materialise.