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IAEA favours statutory backing for India's nuclear regulator

The UN nuclear watchdog IAEA has called for statutory backing for the country's Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) to ensure its decisions are not unduly influenced by external agencies.



Mumbai: The UN nuclear watchdog IAEA has called for statutory backing for the country's Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) to ensure its decisions are not unduly influenced by external agencies.

This was stated today by AERB Chairman S S Bajaj, who quoted a report prepared by experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"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 Government should promulgate a national policy and strategy for the safety and bring about a radioactive waste management strategy as a statement of its intent," Bajaj said here, quoting the report.

The IAEA experts were in India from March 16 to 27 to review - under its Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission - the country's regulatory framework for nuclear power plants.

The mission is peer review service designed to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of the national nuclear regulatory infrastructure.

AERB, set up in 1983 through a gazette notification, is tasked with regulating the safety and security aspects of the civilian nuclear facilities. However, till date, it has not been given an autonomous status and the Board depends on the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), headquartered in Mumbai, for all practical purposes.

In 2011, the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) Bill was drafted by the DAE and introduced in the Lok Sabha, but could not be taken up for debate and subsequently it lapsed. The Bill proposed to set up an autonomous nuclear regulatory body.

"The Bill was introduced in Parliament, but it later lapsed. It will now have to be reintroduced in the new Lok Sabha," Bajaj told reporters here.

However, he observed that giving the Board an autonomous status will change nothing on the ground level as it will only give a legal status to AERB.

The IRRS mission suggested that AERB should review the implementation of its policy and existing arrangements to ensure it maintains independence in the performance of its regulatory functions.

Praising the Board, the mission leader Ramzi Jammal said, "the AERB is an experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated regulatory body. It continues to enhance regulatory programme to face the current and future challenges."  

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