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Health hazards unlikely says Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited
Two people working at a power plant operated by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) in Rawatbhata area of Kota district in Rajasthan may have been exposed to nuclear radiation on June 23. The two were a part of the team carrying out maintenance work at nuclear plants across the country to prevent Fukushima-like disaster in future.
The nuclear reactors in Dai-chi plants in Japan had to be pumped with seawater as the reactors started melting after the plants were shutdown in the wake of March 11 tsunami. But the seawater caused more damage to the reactor, further worsening the condition of the power plants. Keeping in mind such emergencies, nuclear power plants across the country are now being provided with alternate water supply system.
Around 38 workers were working on setting up an alternate water supply to the moderator system in the reactor number five of the plant. On June 23, the level of tritium in the reactor increased inadvertently as moderator cover was opened to perform welding work for the same.
As a result, the two workers—Nand Kishore and Gautam Salvan—were exposed to 22 millisievert and 18 millisievert of tritium radiation respectively. Though the prescribed limit for tritium exposure is 30 millisievert in India, according to Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), the workers have been moved to work on non-radioactive areas of the plants. “This is a precautionary step to prevent any further exposure of the workers this year,” says an NPCIL official. He further adds that the exposure may not have any untoward health risks, as tritium is a low radiation emitter. “Tritium is a soft beta emitter and once it enters body, its removal starts and its level decreases within a week,” he says.
Meanwhile, Vinod Kumar, director of the Rawatbhata plant of NPCIL says that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) was informed about the incident immediately. “The incident has also been independently investigated by the committee deputed by NPCIL and AERB,” he informs. He further says the maintenance work for reactor number 5 has been completed and it is now in sync with the other reactors of the plant. “The issue is likely to be discussed in the Nuclear Regulatory and Safety meeting to be held next month in Mumbai,” he adds.