04 December, 2020

India's Worst Radiation Accident

A valve failure at Kalpakkam, which left six workers with a heavy dose of radiation, raises serious safety questions over our atomic plants

Pallava Bagla
India's Worst Radiation Accident
Six months ago, six workers at the Kalpakkam Reprocessing Plant (KARP) were exposed to a severe dose of radiation. Over three months later, in May, BFEA, the employees association of this BARC facility, gave a strike notice. Scarcely a month after that, the president of the association was transferred. Now, the "strategic" nuclear establishment of the country is finally admitting to a major accident at KARP. B. Bhattacharjee, director of BARC (the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre), told Outlook: "This is the worst accident in radiation exposure in the history of nuclear India."

The incident on January 21, which led to the indefinite shutting down of the plant, raises serious questions over the safety of the production of potential weapons-grade plutonium at KARP, and also the safety of workers and human habitations around Kalpakkam. Concerned members of the scientific community feel that if safety issues aren't quickly addressed and made transparent, Kalpakkam may be a mini-Chernobyl in the making.

It is not difficult to see why. Kalpakkam, 70 km from Chennai, is...


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