Top government meet on Delhi nuclear scare

Top government meet on Delhi nuclear scare
New Delhi A high-level meeting will soon discuss Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to scan and dispose of junk materials carrying radioactive waste.

The meeting will be attended by officials of the Department of Atomic Energy, Prime Ministers Office, Home and Health ministries besides representatives from various intelligence agencies.

The move comes close on the heels of radioactive leaks detected in an industrial area of West Delhi recently as officials of various ministries expressed ignorance as to whether the junk was checked for radioactive materials, official sources said here on Wednesday.

In the meeting, the SOPs would be finalised on checking the junk, which is also imported at times from different countries, before being sold off to scrap dealers.

Last week, panic was triggered in Mayapuri locality after news of a radiation leak spread, with six persons falling ill after coming in contact with a "mysterious shining object" in a scrap shop, later identified as Cobalt-60.

As many as two dozen hospitals from across the country which treat cancer patients using Cobalt pencils have informed the Health Ministry about mechanism used by them in disposing of machines. It includes forming of committees that oversee dismantling process before being sold out as scrap.

The meeting, which was expected to be held later this week, will study the mechanism adopted by the hospitals besides working out a proposal on how to screen the imported scrap at Indian ports itself.

At present, imported junks were screened for arms, ammunition and drugs only.

Meanwhile, investigators continued to search for clues to find the source of Cobalt-60 that had reached the industrial market of the national capital as they were looking into the possibility of whether the nuclear material found its way to other parts of the country.

Security agencies carried out raids in various parts of the areas adjoining the national capital in this connection.

The scientists who examined the scrap were of the opinion that the Cobalt-60 was not available in the country in a form that was found in Mayapuri, sources said. There was also a possibility that it could have been a part of the scrap that may have landed at Indian ports from abroad, they said.

Cobalt-60 among other things is used for radiography to treat cancer patients.

Co-60 is a hard, lustrous and grey metal. Cobalt-based colours and pigments have been used since ancient times for jewellery and paints, and miners have long used the name kobold ore for some minerals.

Besides radiography, it is also used to measure thickness in nucleonic gauges and in medical applications.
Story First Published: April 15, 2010 08:41 IST

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