Radiation: AERB Gets Interim Reply from Delhi University

Radiation: AERB Gets Interim Reply from Delhi University
Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) today said it had received a preliminary reply from the Delhi University to the show cause notice sent to it on violation of rules related to disposal of radioactive waste.

The university had violated "safe disposal of radioactive waste and radiation protection rules" and auctioned the gamma cell from its chemistry lab to scrap dealers in February.

Unaware of radioactive material in the scrap, a few scrap dealers and workers at Mayapuri in the national capital received severe radiation injuries and one person died.

AERB had given two weeks time to respond, but "we have received a reply from Delhi University Registrar today which states that it is only a preliminary reply and the final one will follow once a university-appointed committee gives its report," AERB Chairman S S Bajaj told PTI.

The content of the reply was not disclosed.

Bajaj said the board has put up the reply before a Standing Committee that reviews unusual occurrences in radiation facilities. The committee has a legal advisor also.

The show cause notice was the first step taken by AERB after Delhi Police traced the radiation exposure in Mayapuri scrap market to the varsity's chemistry department.

The university had admitted the violation and formed an internal inquiry committee.

AERB's April 29 notice had sought explanation about the unauthorised disposal of radioactive Cobalt-60 source from a lab as scrap in violation of safety rules. It also suspended use of all the radioactive sources which the university holds.

The origin of the radioactive Cobalt-60 found in Mayapuri scrap market was traced to the university's chemistry department, where it was lying unused for the last 25 years.

Advocate and Scientific Advisor to Bombay High Court B B Singh said the offence committed by Delhi University was cognizable and the punishment could extend up to five years in jail with or without fine.

The Atomic Energy Act, 1962 has a special provision on safety. In case of violation, AERB has the right to enforce penalty like withdrawal of licences and punishment, he said.

According to a former radiation safety professional of Baba Atomic Research Centre, there has been no conviction so far for radiation safety violation.

Earlier, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal had asked UGC to frame a policy immediately on procurement, use and disposal of hazardous substances by universities.

The HRD Ministry has also asked the UGC to direct universities and colleges to follow the existing safety guidelines of regulating agencies like AERB.
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