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International Atomic Energy Agency says India’s N-regulator lacks independence

Wednesday, 1 April 2015 – 7:00am IST | Agency: dna | From the print edition
The review report was released on Tuesday in Mumbai. It asked AERB to be more transparent and open to frequent inspections of its nuclear power sites. Concerns were also raised about radioactive waste management strategy and internal emergency arrangements at the plants.
  • Representational image.

After reviewing the national nuclear power plant regulator Atomic Energy Regulatory Board(AERB), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) pulled up the Indian government for the body’s lack of independence and decision-making.

The review report was released on Tuesday in Mumbai. It asked AERB to be more transparent and open to frequent inspections of its nuclear power sites. Concerns were also raised about radioactive waste management strategy and internal emergency arrangements at the plants.

India has 21 operating nuclear power plants with an installed capacity of over 5780 MW.

The peer review which was done by a 16-member multinational team was undertaken during March 16-27, after the Centre’s invitation.

“The government should embed AERB’s regulatory independence in law, separated from other entities having responsibilities or interests that could unduly influence its decision-making,” states the draft report.

AERB was founded in 1983 for overseeing the safety and other regulatory processes of nuclear power plants in the country. However, critics have questioned its efficiency and objectivity, as it has been reporting to the Atomic Energy Commission. There has long been a demand to make it an autonomous body, and a bill regarding this was pending in Parliament for enactment, but it has now lapsed.

Commenting on the issue, AERB chairman SS Bajaj said the passage of the bill by an Act of Parliament will strengthen the whole system. ” The bill introduced earlier in Parliament has lapsed and the process is on for bringing it again,” Bajaj said.

On the other hand, the review report spoke positively about the AERB’s research, development. infrastructure, staff training, and enhanced regulatory framework.

AERB officials said there’d be a follow-up review by IAEA a couple of years later, and until then, the regulatory body would try to address the recommendations.

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