Mayapuri is still a radiation hazard zone: Greenpeace Field Survey

Press release - May 14, 2010
NEW DELHI, India — Early this morning, a team of two radiological experts from Greenpeace began a combing operation at the Mayapuri scrap market and discovered that there is radiation risk to people at Mayapuri scrapyard in the immediate vicinity of the shop that has been the focus of attention in the last weeks . The investigation has identified at least 6 hotspots with one of them showing more than 5000 times natural background radiation[1].

New Delhi, May 14, 2010. Greenpeace radiation experts Stan Vincent and Jan Vande Putte survey the Mayapuri scrap market in Delhi. Radiation from a Cobalt 60 source killed one person and injured six persons in the western Delhi metal scrap market of Mayapuri. The cobalt 60 was sourced to pencils from a gamma irradiator machine that was sold by Delhi University to scrap dealers. The International Atomic Energy Agency has termed it as a Level 4 accident.

This is after the Government gave a clean chit. Greenpeace has identified and marked the contaminated zone and has shared information with local people and the concerned authorities.

"We are here to verify whether the claim made by the government guaranteeing that this area is safe is really true. The fear and doubts in the locality is palpable and it is a shame that today, we discovered that the area is still contaminated and local workers are unnecessarily continuing to be exposed to unacceptable levels of radiation. We consider these failures as a serious breach of nationally and internationally accepted procedures", said Karuna Raina, Nuclear campaigner, Greenpeace India.

The Greenpeace team with the help of radiation monitors such as an identiFINDER gamma spectrometer and a RadAlert gamma dosimeter scanned the area around one of the shops where the cobalt 60 pencils were recovered. The claims made by the government have been proven to be hollow and the area continues to be contaminated beyond acceptable levels.

The survey results show that there are extremely high levels in localized hotspots and if a person is squatting in these areas they will be exposed to unacceptable radiation risks in excess of the annual dose limit according to Indian standards[2]. For example, in the hotspot with 5000 times background radiation, a person would receive the maximum permissible annual dose of 1 millisievert in just a matter of 2 hours. "While the risk in the hotspots is severe, the solutions are really simple as the hotspot can very easily be decontaminated", said Jan Vande Putte, Greenpeace Radiation Safety expert. "The authorities should immediately decontaminate the hotspots and do a thorough survey of the other shops as well. We have shared all the relevant information with the workers in the area to ensure that there is no panic created."

"This is the consequence of a flawed policy that makes the nuclear regulating body subordinate to institutions that promote nuclear technology in our country.  This clear conflict of interest allows for transparency and accountability to be compromised. India is gravely unprepared for a massive expansion in a civilian nuclear program", said Ms. Raina.

Making a link to the contentious Civilian Nuclear Liability Bill that was introduced in the midst of a walk out by the opposition parties in parliament and is now before the Congress led standing committee on Science and Technology, Raina noted that accidents like the one that happened in Mayapuri are not covered by the bill. Greenpeace has been campaigning against the unconstitutional clauses in the Bill including an attempt to cap liability. "This incident highlights the need for a rigorous study of the risks involved in operation of nuclear power plants. There must be a vigorous and informed public debate and relevant opinions ought to be gathered by the parliamentary standing committee for science and technology that is examining the bill. Otherwise it would be a mockery of safety and justice"

Safe Power India

For further information, contact

Karuna Raina, Nuclear Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace, Ph: Blr: +91 97313 99685, Delhi: +919417116267

Jan Vande Putte, Radiation Safety Expert, Greenpeace, Ph: Del: +919845535418

Shachi Chaturvedi, Senior Media Officer, Greenpeace, +91 98187 50007,

Seema Javed, Senior Media Officer, Greenpeace, +91 99100 59765,

Notes to Editor

[1] The background radiation level in Mayapuri region was 0.1microSv/hr and the level of radiation at various hotspots was 500 microSv/hr
[2] The BARC sets the annual acceptable dose from non natural sources at 1 millisievert