Concerns Arise Over Improper Disposal of Radioactive Sources at Nagaon Paper Mill

Radioactive Source Disposal Raises Fears of Catastrophe
Concerns Arise Over Improper Disposal of Radioactive Sources at Nagaon Paper Mill
Concerns Arise Over Improper Disposal of Radioactive Sources at Nagaon Paper Mill

Concerns are being raised by a section of people after radioactive sources (COBALT-60) installed at the Nagaon Paper Mill, a unit of Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited were allegedly disposed of without prior consultation of the scientists of the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC).

It is expected that such radioactive source disposal will have an impact on the surrounding area, as it is extremely harmful and dangerous to humans.

According to informed sources, there has been no formal clarification on the topic claiming whether any kind of contacts were made in this respect by the responsible authorities of the paper mill with BARC or not.

However, fear of a radiation leak is haunting locals people and residents of the Jagi Road in Morigaon district.

A group of ex-employees and workmen from the paper mill had already informed the state government of the situation, but no action has been taken as of yet.

It is worth noting that if no consultation is conducted, then there is a risk of a radioactive catastrophe similar to the one that occurred at the Mayapuri scrap market in Delhi on March 2010.

As per media reports, the source, a gamma unit containing Cobalt-60 pencils, was improperly disposed of by a research institution in violation of national regulations for radiation protection and safety of radioactive sources at a scrap market in Delhi.

The unit was sold off to unsuspecting scrap dealers who dismantled the equipment. This event subsequently caused the most severe radiation accident reported in India to date, resulting in seven radiation injuries and one death. The clinical course of five of the patients treated at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences hospital, New Delhi.

All five patients suffered from the haematological form of the acute radiation syndrome and local cutaneous radiation injury as well. While four patients exposed to doses between 0.6 and 2.8 Gy survived with intensive or supportive treatment, the patient with the highest exposure of 3.1 Gy died due to acute respiratory distress syndrome and multi-organ failure on Day 16 after hospitalisation.

The aforementioned incident highlights the current gaps in the knowledge, infrastructure and legislation in handling radioactive materials.

What steps must be taken to dispose of radioactive sources at Nagaon Paper Mill's digester?

There are seven active radioactive sources (COBALT -60) in pulp mill. Of which four were installed in Digester and other three were installed with digester related equipment.

Despite the fact that the radioactive sources are hazardous and dangerous to human health, the active sources have not been disposed to BARC. The mill was closed since 2017 onwards, but till date the sources are in active condition.

Thus, the concerned authorities should send the radioactive sources to BARC for disposal on a priority basis.

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