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Foreign link to radioactive scrap in Delhi?

April 20, 2010 15:27 IST

Government on Tuesday said radioactive material found among scrap in Mayapuri in West Delhi, which triggered panic early this month, apparently came from abroad.

"How it came? Most likely that this equipment (containing Cobalt 60) which was found there is not registered with the Atomic Energy Regulation Board. So logical conclusion is that it came as scrap from abroad," Minister of State for Atomic Energy Prithviraj Chavan told the Rajya Sabha.

Replying to a Calling Attention notice on the incident in which seven persons were affected by radiation injuries, he ruled out the origin of the radioactive material from the domestic sources as the country has very strict mechanism of rules and regulations.

Chavan said no operator in the country could buy radiological equipment for treatment without permission of the AERB and even the disposal of the same was monitored.

Agreeing with members both from ruling and opposition sides that there was no law providing for compensation to victims of such mishaps, Chavan said, "We need to enact a legislation against nuclear liability."

The proposed Civil Nuclear Liability Bill is facing strong opposition from BJP and Left parties whose support is required for passage of the measure in the Upper House.

To guard borders against imports of such radioactive materials, the government is installing 12 full container scanners at major ports, he said adding that two such machines were in operation at Nhava Sheva port at Mumbai.

"We have taken the incident very seriously," he said in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The government would blacklist the countries from where false declaration was given regarding the material landing at the ports, Chavan said. While the system was in place for registration of scrap dealers, he said it needed to be tightened.

Allaying members' concern that such incidents, on wider scale, could happen with the country planning to go in for nuclear power plants in a big way, the Minister said it would not be so.

This was because every single gram of the atomic material including the wastage was accounted for. The pilferage 'is just out of question,' he said.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh intervened to say that the government would come out with comprehensive guidelines for monitoring the E-waste material by May 15.

However, for medical waste, excluding the radioactive part, the guidelines were already there, he said. In the discussion, members cutting across party lines said the country was not prepared to face such eventualities and there was no legal mechanism for compensation.

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