Delhi University officials have no clue how a machine containing a radioactive source could slip out of their laboratory as metal scrap.
Vice-Chancellor Deepak Pental said he had “no idea” that the Chemistry department had auctioned out the radioactive material.
“I know that there was an auction recently but I don’t know anything more about it. I will institute a probe tomorrow (Thursday),” he said.
Pental admitted that a lapse of this nature compromised the safety of the students and the staff.
“It is a serious matter. If at all it is the department’s fault, then strict action will be taken.”
What could be more alarming is the fact that the metal scrap auction in February this year was not the first.
The biggest such auction of junked machines and instruments was carried out in late 2008.
“As many as 50 scrap dealers had taken away old instruments in around 20 trucks. Who knows if they contained any radioactive material?” said a department official on the condition of anonymity.
According to the rules, the university should have informed the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board in 1985 before decommissioning the gamma-irradiation machine.
The AERB takes the source of radiation back to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai and formally decommissions the machine.
The AERB confirmed to this newspaper that no such request had ever come from Delhi University.