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Delhi radiation case: Atomic agencies seek Greenpeace's help

By Onkar Singh
May 17, 2010 15:40 IST
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Environmental organisation Greenpeace claimed that its recent findings -- about sources of radiation existing in the scrap market in Delhi's Mayapuri area -- has forced the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, the National Disaster Response Force and the Narora Atomic Power Plant team to re-start their decontamination procedures in Mayapuri.

Exposure to radioactive material Cobalt-60 had claimed one life and caused injuries to 11 people in April.

In a conversation with rediff.com, Karuna Raina, an anti-nuclear campaigner with Greenpeace, claimed that the teams from the various atomic agencies began their work at approximately 2.30 pm on Sunday.

"It is a pity that the AERB did not find it necessary to inform the workers in the area of the continuing contamination. Had Greenpeace not highlighted the hotspots, we wonder how long they would have remained silent. They should share information on the background radiation levels in the area. That is their responsibility," Raina said.

Decontamination efforts by the government agencies began two days after Greenpeace released the results of a radiation safety field survey that identified at least six hotspots in the vicinity of shop no D-2/32 in New Delhi's Mayapuri scrap-yard.

"A team from AERB, BARC, NAPS and NDRF on Sunday re-started decontamination of the area that the AERB had earlier declared as safe," said Raina.

This time, however, the authorities have taken precautionary measures and asked Greenpeace to check the area after they complete their decontamination efforts.

Jan Vande Putte, a radiation expert from Greenpeace, said, "This is an important step forward. The authorities from BARC and AERB on Sunday invited the Greenpeace team to check the area after they had completed their work. We are glad to cooperate with them. The safety of the people in the area is of utmost importance. The findings of the survey will be conveyed to all the officials at AERB and NDMA, as well as the health ministries of the Centre and Delhi government."

When asked what steps the Greenpeace will take if the agencies left the decontamination efforts incomplete this time also, Raina said that their organisation plans to hold a massive demonstration in Mayapuri.

 "We will wait till Wednesday. After that, we will hold a demonstration to highlight the apathy of the government on a serious issue like the leakage of radiation from wasted fuel that was stored in some of the shops in Mayapuri," he said.

Incidentally, the material was bought from the chemistry department of Delhi University, which sold off the waste to the shopkeepers.

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi
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