Tons of Radioactive Material From India Found in Germany | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 15.02.2009
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Tons of Radioactive Material From India Found in Germany

Germany is investigating 150 tons of steel items imported from India which were contaminated with radioactivity, a leading newsmagazine said in a report to appear in its Monday issue.

radiation symbol

Investigators have traced the contaminated material to 12 states

It said the most serious case was five tons of stainless steel wool which had to be disposed of by a nuclear-waste company, GNS.

The contamination was thought to be the result of the radioactive isotope cobalt 60, which is used in nuclear medicine, being inadvertently mixed with steel scrap and being melted down at three Indian steel works.

Anyone near the container of steel wool, which had been intercepted in August last year in the German port of Hamburg, would have received one millisievert of radiation in 24 hours.

Der Spiegel said German regulations treated more that one millisievert in an entire year as unsafe.

Material in most German states

Federal investigators had traced contaminated steel valves, castings, stainless-steel rope, machine parts and steel shavings in 12 of Germany's 16 states, but most of the parts were not inherently dangerous, with radioactivity below the safety limits.

The steel products had been confiscated, the weekly magazine said, but negotiations were still under way on what to do next.

Germany's environment ministry confirmed the report over the weekend, although it played down the severity of the incident, saying the material posed no environmental or health threat.

The ministry added that no consumer products in Germany were affected.

"Most of the steel deliveries contain contamination levels below the legally allowed limits," it said in a statement on Sunday.

The ministry also said it would like to see an initiative developed on the international level to address the issue of irradiated goods.

In France, Sweden and the Netherlands, radioactive steel from India was discovered which in some cases had been used to manufacture buttons used in elevator control panels.

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