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Friday, May 29, 2015, 17:34

Radioactive leak at India's Delhi airport

By Reuters

 Radioactive leak at India's Delhi airport
A general view of the departure hall at Terminal 3 of Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi on Nov 5, 2014. (AFP PHOTO / Prakash SINGH)

NEW DELHI - Radioactive material leaked from a medical shipment on Friday at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport, Indian government and airport officials said, adding that the incident had been contained and there was no risk to passengers.

The leak was found at the airport's cargo-handling complex in a consignment of sodium iodide 131 - a radioactive liquid used in so-called nuclear medicine - that had been on board an inbound Turkish Airlines passenger flight.

"This area is far away from any of the passenger terminals and there is absolutely no risk of exposure to any passengers," Delhi International Airport Ltd, the airport's operator, said in a statement.

"The said area has been cordoned off and as per the preliminary assessment ... the material has been termed as that of low radio activity."

Sodium iodide 131 is used to treat hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancers. It emits radiation and must be handled with care to minimise inadvertent exposure to health workers and patients.

The site was cordoned off by an emergency response team that included representatives of India's National Disaster Response Force and atomic regulators.

"It's a localised leak," R Bhattacharya, vice-chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, told Reuters by telephone.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was holding a news conference when news of the leak broke, said atomic experts had been immediately dispatched to the scene.

"We have been getting regular updates on the situation at the airport," he told reporters. "The leak is under control but we are leaving no stone unturned to check all possibilities of the leakage."

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