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‘Misplaced’ nuclear medicine parcel sparks radiation scare at Delhi airport

Suspected radioactive material leaked from a shipment on Sunday at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, television reports said, adding that hazardous materials experts and disaster response teams were at the spot.

delhi Updated: Oct 09, 2016 22:19 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Delhi airport,Delhi radioactive leak,Radioactive material
Security personnel at the cargo section of the Indira Gandhi International Airport after reports of suspected radioactive leak.(Ravi Choudhary/HT Photo)

A “misplaced” parcel of six nuclear medicine packets tagged radioactive triggered a radiation leak scare at the Delhi airport’s Terminal 3 on Sunday morning, prompting the civil aviation regulator to initiate an investigation.

Police, fire brigade and National Disaster Response Force teams dashed to the airport after the alarm was sounded that a “hazardous consignment” has landed at the cargo courier section of the terminal, instead of the import section where such packages are destined to be.

The Director General of Civil Aviation’s dangerous goods division is investigating the incident, especially how the packets landed in the courier section instead of imports.

Senior airport officials admitted there was a scare since the consignment reached the courier section.

The area was cordoned off for an hour till police and NDRF personnel declared it safe after inspection, saying there was no leak that would harm human health.

“The NDRF confirmed that radioactivity was within permissible limits,” DCP (airport) Sanjay Bhatia said.

At least seven fire tenders were earlier rushed to the airport following the reports of the leak. (Ravi Choudhary/HT Photo)

The consignment — six silver-grey packets wrapped in polythene with the word “radioactif” written above a red radiation trefoil warning symbol on the side — came from Paris on an Air France flight, AF226.

The packets contained solid sodium molybdate which has many uses, including in nuclear medicine.

District magistrate Abhishek Singh, who heads the Delhi district disaster management wing, said the nuclear medicine package was for a hospital in central Delhi.

“The radiation emitted from the nuclear medicine is below 1 mill rongen (radioactivity measurement). There is no beta radiation in the surrounding areas.”

The packet’s discovery around 10am led to a call to police about a suspected radiation leak inside the cargo courier section of T3. Soon, seven fire tenders and a disaster response team arrived, along with a special van for transporting hazardous material.

Officials from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board also inspected the place and allayed radiation fears.

Air France too gave the all-clear, saying the shipment did not reveal any anomaly.

A similar scare engulfed the airport in May last year when airport officials noticed a leaking radioactive shipment sent from Istanbul. The leak was said to be low and away from the passenger area.

First Published: Oct 09, 2016 12:25 IST