IAEA: Separate AERB from other entities
The report came in after a 12-day review of Indian nuclear regulatory framework.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has favoured the delinking of India’s nuclear regulator, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), from the rest of the nuclear establishment and making it an independent statutory body.
After a 12-day review of Indian nuclear regulatory framework, a group of international nuclear safety experts deployed by the IAEA has noted that though India had a strong record on safety, the massive expansion planned for the sector posed challenge in maintaining sufficient regulatory oversight over operating nuclear power plants as well as those under construction.
“The government should embed the AERB’s regulatory independence in law, separated from other entities having responsibilities or interests that could unduly influence its decision making,” the expert group suggested, according to an IAEA statement from Vienna.
“The AERB should review the implementation of its policy and existing arrangements to ensure it maintains independence in the performance of its regulatory functions,” it said.
The IAEA experts’ visit to Indian nuclear power plants and review of the regulatory framework was done at the request of AERB, and it included interviews and discussions with regulatory staff and site visits.
India has already decided to give statutory status to the AERB, which was set up in 1983 through an executive order, and make it completely independent of the Department of Atomic Energy. In its current form, the head of the AERB reports to the Atomic Energy Commission, which incidentally is headed by the chairman of the Department of Atomic Energy. A bill to set up an independent Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2011, following the Fukushima disaster, but it was not passed, and it lapsed in 2014 after the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
The recommendation of the expert group came on the day the IAEA director general Yukiya Amano called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi. Amano expressed appreciation of India’s record on safety and commitment to highest of security standards. He also praised India’s record as a responsible nuclear power.
Modi said India attached special importance to IAEA’s crucial role in generating public awareness and confidence on safety aspects.
The expert group also recommended that the Indian government should promulgate a national policy and strategy for safety and a radioactive waste management policy.
“India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board is an experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated regulatory body for the protection of the public and the environment. It continues to enhance its regulatory programme to face the current and future challenges in regulating nuclear safety, such as reinforcing the safety of existing nuclear facilities, monitoring ageing and decommissioning, as well as providing oversight of the construction, commissioning and operation of new nuclear power plants,” the expert group said, acknowledging the AERB’s strengths.
Source:: Indian Express