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Committees probing BARC fire: Chairman
Chennai/ New Delhi, Jan 4 (IANS/PTI)
Published on 4 Jan. 2010 10:40 PM IST
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: The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) has set up two committees to look into the cause of the fire in one of its chemistry labs that killed two young scientists, BARC chairman S. Banerjee said here Monday. “We are trying to ascertain the cause of accident by estimating the chemicals and the quantities required that would cause such a fire. The police are conducting the forensic investigations,” Banerjee told reporters. “I was at the centre attending a meeting when the accident happened. We didn’t think there were people inside the lab,” he said. Two research students were burnt alive in a fire that broke out in a building housing a chemical laboratory inside the BARC complex in Chembur in northeast Mumbai Dec 29. Banerjee was in Chennai to participate in the 20th Annual Conference of the Indian Nuclear Society (INS) in which around 60 delegates spoke on the theme ‘Materials and Manufacturing in Nuclear Industry’. Responding to a question on the civil nuclear agreement deal with the US, he said: “We have to finalise the issue of reprocessing the spent fuel in the safeguarded nuclear power facility.” Science labs asked to reinforce safety norms The government said on Sunday that the scientific establishments have been asked to reinforce their safety standards in the wake of incidents like the laboratory fire at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and radioactive contamination of a drinking water cooler at the Kaiga nuclear plant. Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan told NDTV in an interview that he has instructed the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) labs not to take things for granted. Replying to queries about safety norms in the wake of last week’s fire at BARC in Mumbai and the earlier incident of radioactive contamination of drinking water at the nuclear facility at Kaiga in Karnataka, Chavan said he was not satisfied with the present procedures. “No, no. I am not satisfied. All our scientific establishments will have to reinforce their safety standards and work procedure. I have instructed in my New Year message to CSIR labs and DST labs that people cannot take things for granted,” Chavan said. “Because, by definition, an accident is something unusual happening, and anything unusual can happen and we will take all precautions and find out what happened,” he added. Chavan said that the two incidents were completely unrelated and denied any link with David Coleman Headley, an American terrorist of Pakistan origin, who was reported to have pictures of BARC. “No, I think it will be stretching the imagination too far, first to link the two incidents, and also to bring an extraneous element. I don’t accept this at all.” The minister said investigations in both Kaiga and BARC incidents were in progress. He said the incident at Kaiga was the work of some disgruntled employee and efforts were being made to establish his identity. The incident of radiation contamination of a drinking water cooler at the Kaiga nuclear plant in November had rendered around 55 employees sick. The minister said he was constantly in touch with the director of BARC complex and forensic and scientific teams were at work to investigate the fire in one of the chemistry labs in which two research scientists died. “Apparently it was instrumentation lab of the chemistry department, there are no chemicals stored there, only very small quantities required to test the spectrophotometer,” he said, adding that it was a refurbished lab and the investigation will examine if there was any connection with the renovation. Chavan said the government will soon have some answers about the incident at BARC. Atomic Energy Commission chairman Srikumar Banerjee told NDTV in a separate interview that the organisation had ordered a safety review of labs in different places within BARC. Terming the fire incident as the most unfortunate event in his over 40 years at the BARC, Banerjee said the centre will be decongested. “Decongestion of BARC is something we must try and we have been doing this on a war footing and this will be implemented in matter of weeks,” he said.

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