'DU violated rules by selling radioactive scrap'
Under attack on the Mayapuri radiation accident, Government on Friday said that Delhi University had violated rules by selling scrap containing radioactive material and that those responsible would not be spared.
Minister of State in the PMO Prithiviraj Chavan asserted that all the 19 nuclear plants generating electricity in the country were completely safe and mechanisms would be strengthened in the field of atomic research and medical use as "some lessons have been learnt" from the accident in which one person died.
He told the Lok Sabha that Delhi Police had upgraded the FIR in the case after one person died and that it was looking at "criminal negligence" part in the radiation caused by Cobalt-60.
Against the backdrop of the mishap in the West Delhi scrap market last month, he forcefully argued for the need to put in place a law on fixing compensation in the case of accidents involving radioactive leakages as there was a "void".
During the Calling Attention Motion, CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta, Sumitra Mahajan (BJP) and B Mahtab and Arjun Charan Sethi (both BJD) demanded that the university authorities be brought to book on charge of criminal negligence as, being "highly educated", they ought to know the repercussions of auctioning the Gamma Cell as scrap.
"Mistake was made by the (Delhi) University in not adhering" to rules and its own undertaking to atomic energy authorities that the device, which was used by its Chemistry Department, would not be re-sold, Chavan said replying to the Motion.
He said the DU authorities "did not follow rules" and asserted that responsibility will be fixed. "No guilty person will be spared, I assure you," Chavan told the House.
The radioactive leakage occurred when a scrap, which originated from Delhi University's Chemistry department, was being cut at a shop.
Responding to members' concerns, the minister said all the 112 cobalt slugs related to the accident have since been identified and sent to the Narora Nuclear Power Plant for safe keeping.
Maintaining that scrap import would now be checked for the presence of any radioactive material, Chavan assured the House that detection equipment to scan the scrap were being deployed at various entry points. "We are conscious of the need to prevent unauthorised import of radioactive material".
Asserting that the radiation incident "has nothing to do" with any of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) facilities or activities, he said the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) had a complete inventory of all radioactive sources in the country.
There were 10,000 sources with about 3,000 institutions and licenses were given to users which were "very responsible," Chavan said.
Observing that at present there was no law on compensation to the victims of such accidents, he said, "We need to have a law for compensation in such cases which should deal with insurance, compensation and related issues."
Police was investigating all aspects of the "very unfortunate" incident, including criminal negligence. "Action will be taken against all those found guilty," he said.
The Minister said the incident was caused by "unauthorised disposal" of the Gamma Cell by Delhi University as scrap in violation of the Atomic Energy (Safe Disposal of Radioactive Waste) Rules and the Atomic Energy (Radiation Protection) Rules.
He said the university has been issued a show-cause notice by the AERB and to suspend all activities involving the use of radiation sources.
The opposition members had also castigated the government for "waking up" only after the Mayapuri incident had occurred and not having any law to deal with the liability and compensation in such cases.
In his response, Chavan said four battalions of National Disaster Response Force had been trained to respond to radiological emergencies and four more battalions were being trained.
To further strengthen the response capability, about 1,000 police stations in 35 major cities were being equipped with radiation monitors and protective gears by the National Disaster Management Authority. DAE has also set up 18 well-equipped response centres across the country, he added.