Mumbai: Global nuclear watchdog IAEA on Friday asked India to ensure its atomic regulator's independence to prevent an "undue influence" and come out with a national policy for radioactive waste management.
At the end of a 12-day visit by its team of Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) experts, who travelled to various nuclear facilities in the country, IAEA said, "The government should embed the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) 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 safety, and a radioactive waste management strategy as a statement of the government's intent," IRRS experts recommended.
The team comprising nuclear energy experts visited different nuclear sites during its 12-day mission. India maintains that such reviews reflect access given by the government to international monitors and strengthen the case of India for a membership to the nuclear control regimes.
Incidentally, IAEA Director General General Yukiya Amano is also on a visit to India.
Currently, the AERB, established in 1983, is tasked with regulating the safety and security aspects of the country's civilian nuclear facilities. However, it is not an autonomous body as it depends on the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) for all practical purposes.
Critics say, it has been unable to perform its regulatory functions effectively. The demand for establishing a truly autonomous nuclear regulatory authority has been a long- standing one. In 1997, the Raja Ramanna Committee report had recommended that the Atomic Energy Act (1962) should be amended to enhance the effectiveness of the nuclear regulatory system in the country.
To give more teeth to the AERB and ensure its independence, the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) Bill was first introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2011. The bill has now lapsed and will have to be reintroduced in the new Lok Sabha.