A suspected radioactive leak was reported on Sunday in the cargo area of the Delhi airport from a shipment carrying material for cancer treatment from France, triggering a ‘Radiological Emergency’, which was withdrawn after little over three hours as the emission was found within permissible limits.
An emergency response was activated following the suspected leak with teams from Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and National Disaster Response Force rushing to the cargo terminal of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, about a kilometre-and-a-half from the passenger area. A team of doctors from Medanta hospital was also rushed to the spot.
“A call was received from the airport around 10.45 am regarding suspected radioactive leak from medical equipment,” said Atul Garg, Chief Fire Officer.
The local unit of the Central Industrial Security Force intimated the NDRF control room about the suspected radioactive leak from a sanitized container from a consignment that came on an Air France plane on Saturday night.
NDRF sources said its team rushed to the spot, sanitised the area and got the cargo complex vacated as a preventive measure.
“Detection of radiation was done by NDRF team using technical equipment. Radiation level at varied distances from the source was marked and the suspect packings were isolated,” it said.
Government officials said a regular consignment of 16 packets of material for cancer treatment arrived by Air France AF 226 on Saturday night at 2230 hrs.
In a statement, District Magistrate Abhishek Singh said, “An inadvertently wrong radiological emergency message was conveyed”.
“A nuclear medicine Molibdenum 99 was being brought from Air France flight on behalf of B L Kapoor Hospital, Pusa Road. The quantity of radiation emitted from the nuclear medicine is below 1 mill rongen (measurement of radiation).
“There is no beta radiation in the surrounding areas and there is no leakage. Hence it cannot be termed as an emergency. A final call has thus been taken and the Radiological Emergency has been called off at 01.55 pm,” he said.
“Officers from BARC and NDRF have cleared at 1355 hrs that there is no anticipation of any harm because there is no radioactive leakage,” senior government officials said.
Air France said in a statement that the shipment of radioactive medical material on flight AF 226 operated by an A 330 aircraft from Paris to New Delhi on 8 October 2016 “did not reveal any anomaly”.
“After several controls by the relevant authorities including India’s independent Nuclear Energy authorities at its arrival at the New Delhi airport its acceptation has been confirmed compliant,” it said.
“There is nothing to panic and there is no effect on the passenger area. Timely response by NDRF and other stakeholders prevented the situation to cause undue panic,” a statement by the NDRF said.
Delhi International Airport Limited, which runs the IGI airport, said, “There was no radioactive leakage and all operations at the Delhi airport are normal.”