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BARC fire: no chemical storage in lab,intern intake to be cut

Ten months after two research scientists were killed in an accidental fire caused due to reaction of chemicals in a laboratory at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

Written by Stuti Shukla | Mumbai |
November 2, 2010 8:47:37 am

Ten months after two research scientists were killed in an accidental fire caused due to reaction of chemicals in a laboratory at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Trombay,the BARC officials have decided to stop storage of chemicals in the lab and to reduce the intake of interns as they are “more prone to accidents”.

The move comes after a committee,appointed by the BARC to probe the cause of the fire,made recommendations in this regard in its report,submitted last month.

Acting on the recommendations,the BARC officials have stopped chemicals’ storage in the lab and started the process of scientifically disposing of all the old chemicals stored in the lab. Moreover,the BARC has also reduced the intake of interns on its campus,because,according to officials,they are amateur and are more prone to accidents.

“We have issued directions that only quantities of chemicals required to carry out experiments be brought to the lab at the time. Any kind of storage of such chemicals has been prohibited. We have also started disposal of old chemicals that had been lying in the labs,in a scientific manner in an incinerator. Also,we will henceforth make sure that before any kind of renovation work takes place in the labs,no chemicals or potentially hazardous chemicals are stored in it,” BARC director Dr R K Sinha said on Friday.

Umang Singh from Mumbai and Partha Pratim Bag from West Bengal,both PhD students in the country’s premier nuclear research hub’s Radiation and Photochemistry Division,were burnt to death on December 30 last year,when an accidental explosion took place while the lab was being repainted. The students were shifting these chemicals when one or more of them made contact with air and caused an intense explosion,sources said.

Sinha said the incident was very unfortunate and that the country cannot afford to lose young talent due to such irresponsibility. He said interns will be taken in,but in smaller numbers and along with other scientists they too will be given instructions and training for the safe usage of these chemicals. Guidelines spelling out the hazards of chemicals are also being prepared,he added.

Umang,living in a chawl in Jogeshwari,had three of his research papers in photochemistry and anti-oxidants published on the BARC website.

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