'Radioactive waste at university'

2010-04-30 11:15

New Delhi - Delhi University, blamed for dumping radioactive material that killed a man this week, buried 20kg of other waste in a pit on campus, an academic claimed in a report published on Friday.

Ramesh Chandra, a professor in the chemistry department, told the Times of India that his counterparts in the physics faculty had buried radioactive waste two decades ago after using the material in experiments.

"Instead of handling over the hazardous material... for proper disposal, they just buried it," he said. "Though it's been 20 years the buried isotopes of substances like uranium could still be active."

On Thursday, police blamed the university for dumping an irradiation machine containing radioactive cobalt-60 which ended up in scrap yard in New Delhi, where the waste killed a 35-year-old worker and put seven others in hospital.

Claims made by Chandra were not immediately verifiable. Delhi University declined to comment when contacted.

The Asian Age newspaper reported that India's Atomic Energy Regulatory Board had suspended the university's right to handle radioactive material on Thursday evening.

Radioactivity underestimated

The university imported the gamma irradiation machine in 1980 but stopped using it in 1985 and sold it at auction in February.

Vice-chancellor Professor Deepak Pental told reporters on Thursday that the university "takes moral responsibility and was apologetic for the damages caused".

He said the "mistake" was underestimating the radioactivity of the machine. A three-member committee has been set up to investigate.

Search teams from the police and an atomic research centre found cobalt-60 in 15 different shops in the scrap market.

Last week, India's shipping ministry ordered 12 ports to install detectors for radioactive material, fearing other hazardous materials could slip into the country.