The Delhi University’s (DU) radiation mishap may sound bizarre to you, but its not something the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) hasn’t seen before.
India’s top radiation safety regulator has probed 16 such cases across the country since 2000 in which radioactive material was either stolen or lost.
One of them occurred as recently as August 2009 when an industrial radiography device of a company fell from a vehicle during transit from Pune to Mumbai. It was found intact in a village the next day.
This, however, is just one of the three successful recoveries. The rest are still out there.
“Investigation and search for stolen material is a routine affair. When a source, registered with us, gets stolen or misplaced we try to locate it,” said Om Pal Singh, member secretary, AERB.
All instances find a clear mention in the regulator’s annual reports. The cases of lost material have causes ranging from malicious intent to plain carelessness.
A September 2008 case highlights the latter. A technician, about to board a train from the Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station, lost his suitcase containing an Industrial Gamma Radiography Exposure Device. Despite an exhaustive search, the device could not be found.
“What can be done if it is not found? However, to ensure safety of the people we checked for radiation levels in all the suspected areas where the source could have been,” Singh said.
“In 2005, a man in Mumbai stole a radioactive source and threw it into the Vashi Creek. We did all we could,” said Pal.
AERB scientists checked the Mayapuri shops on Monday to ensure there was no source of radiation left unattended. “We had earlier used tele-detectors to discover the sources of radiation. That was from a distance. Now we are doing a closer examination," said an official.
(with inputs from PTI)