Government plans nuclear watchdog with limited powers
A new Bill introduced in Parliament for setting up a Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) could result in a regulatory system much weaker than the existing one.
Currently, the nuclear industry is regulated by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), which reports to the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). After the Fukushima disaster, PM Manmohan Singh had promised a strong and independent regulatory system for India.
Though the proposed regulator will be independent of the DAE, it will work at the mercy of the central government and will have limited powers.
The central government will appoint its chairman and other members, and will also have powers to supersede it. In addition, the government can set up more regulatory bodies.
Above the NSRA will be another superstructure called the Council of Nuclear Safety, which will be presided over by the PM and will “oversee and review policies with respect to radiation safety, nuclear safety and other issues”. Weapon grade nuclear material has been kept out of the new regulator’s purview.
The AERB is empowered to issue licences and consent for setting up nuclear and radiation facilities in India covering all stages. But the NSRA’s jurisdiction will be confined to ensuring radiation and nuclear safety relating to “production, storage, disposal, transport, import and export” of nuclear and radiation material.
In matters of safety in design, location, construction, commissioning, operation and decommissioning of nuclear power plants, the NSRA can only “develop and notify” such standards and codes.
The AERB grants consent in different forms – licence, authorisation, registration and approval – based on the hazard potential associated with radiation sources. For instance, a licence is required for a power plant which falls in the ‘highest hazard’ category. The NSRA does not define such categories of consent.
Source – INDIA TODAY