- Nov 16, 2009
VIENNA: The UN atomic watchdog on Saturday said it is seeking more information about reports of a radioactive waste scandal at the University of Delhi, with one person already dead from radiation poisoning.
India's atomic energy regulator the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is currently investigating a claim that Delhi University buried radioactive material on its campus 20 years ago.
Local police also blame the university for dumping an irradiation machine containing radioactive cobalt-60 which ended up in scrap yard in New Delhi, where it killed a 35-year-old worker and put seven others in hospital.
International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman Marc Vridricaire said the watchdog had become aware "of the possibility of a serious radiation emergency at Mayapuri in New Delhi" via media reports on April 9.
It had also seen media reports this week "of a fatality caused by exposure to radiation in Indian scrap metal yards."
As a result, the IAEA's Incident and Emergency Centre "has contacted India's Department of Atomic Energy to request information" and offer help, Vridricaire said.
The Indian Department of Atomic Energy had "confirmed the initial event," and the AERB had notified the IAEA that "multiple Cobalt-60 sources" had been located and secured, the spokesman continued. Cobalt-60 is categorised as a radioactive source "that can cause permanent injury to a person handling the material even for a short time without appropriate safety measures and protection."
The IAEA's Incident and Emergency Centre was "continuing to seek further information on this event," Vridicaire said. "And the IAEA stands ready to assist Indian authorities upon request."
The gamma irradiation machine found in the Delhi scrapyard earlier this month was imported by the university in 1980, but had not been used since 1985. It was sold to scrap dealers at auction in February.