N-plant radiation leak in Karnataka leaves 45 staffers sick

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by RAM, Nov 29, 2009.

  1. RAM

    RAM The southern Man Senior Member

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    N-plant radiation leak in Karnataka leaves 45 staffers sick

    BANGALORE/KARWAR: In a nuclear accident that is bound to raise key safety concerns ahead of India’s ambitious atomic expansion programme, about 45 employees of the Kaiga atomic power plant suffered radiation poisoning when radioactive heavy water from the plant contaminated the drinking water. Kaiga is one of India’s newer nuclear reactors

    There was no official word from the usually secretive nuclear establishment. Sources said the employees were in hospital because they experienced a mildly higher level of radiation than permissible on Friday after drinking from a water cooler near an open area in one of the reactors.

    Though a tiny amount of radiation is normal, scientists said the contamination was unusual because the affected employees do not go into the actual reactor area but work around it. ‘‘With no exposure to the reactor directly, it was surprising to see them with mildly higher level of radiation,’’ was the only comment Kaiga station director A M Gupta had to offer.

    Heavy water molecules have two atoms of deutrium instead of the hydrogen in drinkable water H2O. It can cause fatally high levels of toxicity in humans.

    The Nuclear Power Corporation, which runs Kaiga, did not respond to media queries over the nuclear accident. According to the deputy commissioner of Uttara Kannada N S Channappa Gowda, there were no casualties or injuries reported.

    ‘‘Investigation is on and we’ll probe how the (heavy) water got into the drinking water. For now, we have isolated the cooler and drinking water. Simultaneously, water testing is on,’’ said an NPC official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    The contamination was detected when some of the affected employees felt a change in the pattern of urination. hey were rushed to the doctor and all of them were tested and found normal. The employees even got back to work.

    However, tests confirmed radioactivity in the urine samples. Sources said some amount of used heavy water, used as a moderator in reactors that use natural uranium as fuel, had got into the cooler containing drinking water and contaminated it. This heavy water caused the higher radiation. NPC has not released the names of those hospitalised at NPC’s medical establishment at Malapur.

    N-plant radiation leak in Karnataka leaves 45 staffers sick - India - The Times of India
     
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  3. K Factor

    K Factor A Concerned Indian Senior Member

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    This is serious, very serious.

    The scale of the leakage is not known yet. Lets hope its not really bad.

    Until its known what caused this, sabotage cannot be ruled out.
     
  4. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Radiation leak at Karnataka N-plant was deliberate: Kakodkar

    Radiation exposure at Karnataka N-plant was deliberate: Kakodkar - India - The Times of India

    Very serious case. Was it a terror sleeper cell experimenting as to how it can attack our N plants in different ways or was a very very sick mischief monger.
    An earlier resolution of this case is very much required.
     
  5. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    the KAIGA plant sits right in the middle of western ghats. this news is serious not only from the point of view of the humans but also the whole ecological balance will be hit badly if something dangerous happens.
    hope it is not very serious and will be taken care of.
     
  6. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    thanks for the clarification link.
    this is what i was thinking. it is really serious.
     
  7. chathurang

    chathurang New Member

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    How the hell did heavy water get mixed with the drinking water in the cooler.These should be from 2 different sources....are they using the same system or what for the two.
    This is totally unacceptable.
     
  8. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Read the report i have posted earlier. Someone has contaminated the drinking water. Its a case of sabotage.
     
  9. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Loopholes should be fixed asap and everyone who has access to radioactive materials should be accounted for. Radioactive material are not free for all chemicals, there should be stringent controls on its use. The good thing in this case is that Tritium is very weakly radioactive that some people usually work with bare hands as its half life is 12 years and the emitting particles are not that dangerous for human health. I hope these kind of sabotages are prevented in future and access to such radioactive material will be more tightly controlled.
     
  10. tarunraju

    tarunraju Moderator Moderator

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    This gives a very good indication of just how capable we are in handling facilities as potentially dangerous as nuclear power plants, now that everyone in India inc has a hardon for nuclear power.
     
  11. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    First there was this case of the missing scientist who was later found dead. There were lots of conspiracy theories doing the rounds back then. With India betting big on N power and going after bid ticket projects worth billions, it had better have secure ways to operate. Along with the N tech, India should also buy and invest in the latest ways to handle N power plants.
     
  12. bengalraider

    bengalraider DFI Technocrat Stars and Ambassadors

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    There must be CCTV cameras there(if there are no cameras; well we are not securing our nuclear facilities enough), the footage should be analysed to see who the culprit might be.
     
  13. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Just saw IBN, it is reporting that CCTV was covering that exact spot. Let's see what comes of it.
     
  14. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    This is a serious boo boo indeed. If this was willful sabotage, as it appears to be, we'll have to be doubly careful.

    Here's what Anil Kakodkar has to say on the matter:


    Kaiga leakage: Kakodkar calls it deliberate, probe on

    [​IMG]
    Atomic Energy Commission chief Anil Kakodkar
    has hinted that the Kaiga nuclear plant leakage
    as a case of sabotage.



    In a shocking incident of sabotage, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) on Sunday said radioactive tritium was "deliberately" put in a water cooler at the high-security Kaiga Nuclear Power Plant, exposing about 50 workers to increased level of radiation.

    "Somebody deliberately put the tritiated water vials into a drinking water cooler. Therefore, we are investigating who is behind the malevolent act," AEC Chairman Anil Kakodkar said in Mumbai.

    Describing the incident as a serious operating procedure lapse, he said people involved will be severely punished under the Atomic Energy and other acts after investigation. In New Delhi, Minister of State for Atomic Energy Prithviraj Chavan said an inquiry is already in progress. It has to be seen whether it was an act of a "disgruntled" individual, he said, noting, "We will find answers soon."

    About 45 to 50 employees working in the first maintenance unit of the Kaiga plant in Uttara Kannada district were treated at the plant hospital in Mallapur for increased level of tritium after they drank water from a cooler in the operating area on November 24, official sources said. Tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, is used in research, fusion reactors and neutron generators.

    The plant's Station Director J P Gupta said on phone from Kaiga that investigations have revealed that one of the water coolers was found to be contaminated and as a precautionary measure, body samples of all the persons working in the area were analysed and based on those results, a few were sent for medical consultation.

    He said Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited has launched a probe by an experts committee and the incident has also been reported to the intelligence department. All the persons are on their normal duty now, Gupta said. Asked if he suspected "conspiracy" and "sabotage" behind the episode, Gupta said he did not wish to comment.

    "The investigations are being carried out from two angles. First to ascertain as who contaminated the water cooler with tritiated heavy water, and the second from a radiation protection angle....", Kakodkar said.

    B Bhattacharjee, Member, National Disaster Management Authority, said the cooler was found to be sealed. "But later on, the investigators found that through the drainage, the overflow line of the cooler, it seemed some mischief monger inserted tritiated water and contaminated the whole cooler. And people consumed that (the water)," he said.

    Bhattacharjee said, "As soon as it was detected, they did a routine sampling. They gave some diuretics to all. Out of 55, 53 have been cleared." Denying any release of radioactivity in and outside the Kaiga plant, Nuclear Power Corporation's Chairman and Managing Director S K Jain said all units of the plant are normal and none of its workers have been admitted to hospital. Uttara Kannada district Superintendent of Police Raman Gupta said, "We are taking it (the incident) seriously as public interest is involved. We are waiting for the nod from the Kaiga authorities for the full investigation."

    Kaiga currently has three 220 mw plants -- two are operational and one has been shut-down from October 20 on account of annual maintenance. A fourth one is slated to be operational from later this financial year.


    Kaiga leakage: Kakodkar calls it deliberate, probe on

    ---

    In other news, the 55 sick officers have returned to their duties at the plant.

    10 people are reportedly under the scanner and are being questioned als wir sprechen.

    Meanwhile, the report doesn't seem to have impacted our endeavors in seal country ( no innuendo intended ) :

    India, Canada agree on historic n-deal

    ---

    The AERB authorities have reportedly kept both the police and the IB in the loop regarding the probe and have sought their support if need be.

    The hypothesis is that a worker may have taken the radioactive substance for sampling to the chemical laboratory and may have misused it to spread panic. Direct outside involvement is almost certainly to have been ruled out given the levels of security and crack operating procedures.

    Meanwhile, amid all the hoopla about security and talk of safety procedures at India's nuclear plants, I thought it prudent to quote this excellent post by qsaark at you know where. All credits go to brother qsaark for this technically detailed and intimately well-compiled post:




    [​IMG]There is lots of hype in the post of several members from both the sides. The news reports posts also add more to the confusion. Allow me to present it in more layman language.

    First of all it does not appear to be a pure ‘tritium’ (hydrogen-3) ingestion but the employees have consumed drinking water contaminated with the ‘heavy water’. Following is the reason why I think it is not pure tritium but heavy water ingestion:

    Chemical formulae for the water is H2O (two hydrogen and one oxygen atom) whereas in the so called heavy water the two hydrogen atoms are replaced with two deuterium (an isotope of hydrogen) atoms hence D2O. Experiments in mice, rats, and dogs have shown that a degree of 25% deuteration causes sterility (sometimes irreversible). The deuterium toxicity is highly unlikely in the humans because it would take a very large amount of heavy water to replace 25% to 50% of a human being's body water (which in turn is 70% of body weight) with heavy water, accidental or intentional poisoning with heavy water is unlikely to the point of practical disregard. This will only happen if a person consumes only heavy water and no normal water for a period of several days.

    Oral doses of heavy water in the multi-gram range, along with heavy oxygen 18O, are routinely used in human metabolic experiments (doubly-labeled water testing). Since 1 in every 6400 hydrogen atoms is deuterium, a 50 kg human containing 32 kg of body water would normally contain enough deuterium (about 1.1 gram) to make 5.5 grams of pure heavy water, so roughly this dose is required to double the amount of deuterium in the body.

    In the present case, the employees were found their urines bioassay positive for tritium suggesting that they consumed water contaminated with heavy water (often dissolve tritium and other neutron-activated chemicals) obtained from some where in the primary heat transport (PHT) loop of the nuclear reactor. If you look at the schematics, it is easier said than done to have each and every corner of the reactor installed with a CCD camera. Even the water that is leaving in the form of the steam can be condensed and used as tritium-(and other isotopes) laced sample.


    [​IMG]


    Similar incident happened at the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station, Canada. In 1990, assistant plant operator Daniel George Maston at the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station took a sample of heavy water from the moderator system and loaded it into a "sport mix" drink dispenser in an industrial lunch zone. It was not loaded in a water cooler in an office. Eight employees drank some of the contaminated water. One individual who was engaged in heat stress work, requiring alternating work, rest, and rehydration periods consumed significantly more than the others. The incident was discovered when employees began leaving bioassay urine samples with elevated tritium levels, one with particularly and unusually high levels. The quantities involved were well below levels which could induce heavy water toxicity, but several employees received elevated radiation doses from tritium and activated chemicals in the water. It is believed that Maston intended the exposure to be a practical joke, whereby the affected employees would be required to give urine samples daily for an extended length of time.[​IMG]
     
  15. Flint

    Flint Senior Member Senior Member

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    What a strange episode. Its too early to speculate now. Since sabotage seems to be the case, let us wait for the investigation to finish.
     
  16. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    domain-b.com : Kaiga N-plant leak: Suspect list narrowed down

    Kaiga N-plant leak: Suspect list narrowed down news
    30 November 2009

    New Delhi: With only two workers receiving the uppermost limit of radiation of three rem (röntgen equivalent, man) a year in an emergency, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India has confirmed that none of the sixty five workers has been hospitalised because of radiation leak at the Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Karnataka. Focus has shifted instead to identifying the source of what is now being considered to be an ''insider job.''

    The source of the ''leak,'' according to reports, has been traced to vials kept in labs within the complex. These vials contain heavy water, used as a coolant in the nuclear plant, and are collected for lab tests. It is now being surmised that some vials of tritiated heavy water were diverted to ``spike'' a water cooler instead of being released into specified areas.

    Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, which is used for research, and in fusion reactors and neutron generators.

    The tritiated heavy water was apparently pushed into the cooler through an outflow pipe as the machine itself is sealed. Authorities are working on the assumption that the act was carried out by a disgruntled nuclear scientist.

    The water cooler is located outside the reactor area and was found contaminated by radioactivity on the night of 24 November.

    ``The staff who had access to vials and the various points in the chain where the vials could have been diverted are being examined,'' said MoS in PMO, Prithviraj Chavan.

    Senior nuclear scientists emphasized there was no radiation leak in the plant itself.

    Unit 1 of the Kaiga Atomic Power Station has been shut down for annual maintenance since 20 October and around 500 workers are involved in the maintenance work, many of whom are contract workers.

    According to Kaiga station director JP Gupta , "We have a list of the people who had entered the reactor building that day. The investigating agencies are analysing the data," he said.

    Kaiga has are four reactors, each with a capacity to generate 220 MW. While three units are operational, the fourth one is expected to go on stream soon.

    According to the outgoing Atomic Energy Commission chief, Anil Kakodkar, investigations are now focusing on two angles, with authorities working to identify the worker who contaminated the water cooler with tritiated water, as well as reviewing security aspects related to radiation hazard.

    Kakodkar said normally small quantities of tritiated heavy water are tested for chemical parameters.

    Investigation

    According to chairman and managing director of NPCIL, S K Jain, the water cooler had been padlocked and the person in charge of maintenance on the night of November 24 was being examined. He also said that the whole area has computer-accessed control and so it was likely that in the course of time authorities would be able to narrow down on the person who conducted the act of sabotage.

    According to Jain, he was confident that from ''the details of the computerised access system, we will be able to identify the mischievous element,'' and ''the punishment for causing the incident will be severe.''

    The probe into the leak runs into an initial hurdle as authorities realise that there is no CCTV camera installed in front of the water cooler. Authorities say they are working with footage of other nearby areas and log books.

    Intelligence Bureau officials will also be looking to examine finger prints on the cooler. The finger prints will then be matched with the data available on the plant's biometric security system.

    Maintenance staff and engineers are also being questioned.

    According to sources, the list of suspects has been narrowed down to 10-15 persons so far.

    According to Jain, "It will not be difficult to narrow down possible suspects and with the help of all the intelligence agencies we will be in a position to find the culprit and then come to know the motive - whether it was just some grievance or some other causes," he said.

    NPCIL sources also said that the water cooler served both Kaiga 1 and 2 units, which are 220 megawatt pressurized heavy water reactors.

    Preliminary investigations are being conducted by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and NPC.
     

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