Friday, May 7, 2010

insurance to pay damages for radiation mishap

7 May 2010


From Our Delhi Bureau

NEW DELHI: Under attack on the Mayapuri radiation accident here from radioactive material sold in scrap, the government on Friday admitted that there is no law for compensation to victims as even the 1991 Public Liability Act enacted to handle the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984 specifically excluded nuclear and radiological incidents.

Minister of State for Science and Atomic Energy Prithviraj Chavan said the government have learnt lessons from the Mayapuri incident and indicated that a law will be enacted on disposal o the radioactive material and those using it will have to take out insurance to pay compensation in case of any mishap.

Also accepting not even the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) where the victims were admitted having expertise to treat such patients, Chavan promised to work on a better medical regime for any such accidents in future, stressing that all possible care will be taken to ensure the country handles any radiological emergency.

He, however, assured the House that the government's atomic power programme as also its present and future nuclear atomic power plants are completely safe while the new law will take care of other users of the radioactive equipment like hospitals, factories and researchers.  He asserted that all the 19 nuclear plants generating electricity in the country were completely safe.

Chavan also assured Delhites that there is no more danger of radiation from the cobalt pencils sold in the scrap as all the 112 slugs related to the accident have since been locatd and sent to the Narora Nuclear Power Plant for safe keeping.

He said those in Delhi University who had unauthorisedly disposed off the radioactive material in scrap will face action. He said Police was, however, still continuing the probe into the radiation mishap caused by Cobalt-60 and hence he cannot say who all will be charged in the case. Delhi Police had upgraded the FIR in the case after one person died and that it was looking at "criminal negligence" part in the radiation caused by Cobalt-60, he said.

Taking serious note of dangers from free use of the radioactive materials, he announced action initiated to prevent any unauthorised imports of the radioactive material by installing detection equipment at entry points at airports, seaports and land ports. The detection capabilities are aimed to be as per international guidelines to detect a variety of radioactive substances emitting gamma rays and neutrons.

The minister was replying to a calling attention motion during which several Opposition members, including Gurudas Dasgupta of CPI and Sumitra Mahajan of BJP demanded that the Delhi University authorities be booked on the charge of criminal negligence in selling the Gamma Cells as scrap.

Chavan said the DU authorities "did not follow rules" and asserted that responsibility will be fixed. "No guilty person will be spared, I assure you." Chavan told the House.


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