Radioactive waste found in a New Delhi scrap-metal market has killed a 35 year old worker, who died of multiple organ failure. Seven people were hospitalized after the discovery on April 12. The incident even got the attention of the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA, which called it “the most serious global instance of radiation exposure since 2006”. Police and experts from an Indian atomic research centre took away waste containing cobalt-60.
Cobalt-60 is categorized 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 radioactive scrap was a gamma irradiation machine & came from Delhi University DU, which was imported by the university in 1980, but had not been used since 1985. It was sold to scrap dealers at auction in February despite of the fact that it contains hazardous radioactive material. The poor scrap dealers tried to open the machine & became victims of radioactivity.
In a shocking development Ramesh Chandra, a professor in the chemistry department at Delhi University India, told the media that his counterparts in the physics faculty had buried 20 kilograms of low-grade radioactive waste in a pit inside the campus 20 years ago, instead of handing over the hazardous material for proper disposal,. India’s atomic energy regulator the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) & International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA is currently investigating the claim & has issued a show-cause-notice to Delhi University. DU has two weeks to respond during which all nuclear-related operations at its research lab will be suspended.
The incidents at Delhi University have highlighted the negligent enforcement of waste disposal laws in India and raised fears of further contamination from the university, the city’s biggest institute with 300,000 students.